When I first heard this album, I was a little taken aback - stunned even. I wasn't at all sure about how I felt about it - whether I loved it, hated it, whether it was a wonderful tribute or an insult. What exactly is it about this album that stirred up such strong and conflicting emotions? Well, L.E.O. have pretty much tried their best to make an E.L.O. album, replicating production, songwriting, vocal & harmony styles of the one and only Jeff Lynne. The great thing about this album is that, on the vast majority of this album, they've succeeded to a brilliant extent.
L.E.O. is the brainchild of singer/songwriter Bleu (a Boston-based musician), but also features contributions from Matt Mahaffey, Andy Sturmer (Jellyfish), Mike Viola, Hanson (yes, they of 'MmmBop' fame) and members of Chicago. Together they have produced some of the most incredible Jeff Lynne songs that Jeff Lynne never wrote. The dreamy 'Goodbye Innocence' has a 'Free As A Bird' feel to it, 'Nothin' Will Ever Change' sounds like an Out Of The Blue-era Jeff Lynne Beatlesque masterpiece and 'Distracted' could easily have been a standout song on Jeff's solo album 'Armchair Theatre'. These three songs are the best on the album and work because they are simply wonderful tracks in their own right and sound like new Jeff Lynne songs rather than songs Jeff has already written.
More problematic and less easy to enjoy are song which are heavily influenced by E.L.O. songs to such an extent that they actually sound like the song they've borrowed from and that's when this album crosses the line between tribute and parody. 'Ya Had Me Goin'' for example is 'Evil Woman', right down to the guitar riff and the bassline. Yes, it's very enjoyable, but it's still slightly uncomfortable to hear and difficult to respect, despite it's obvious cleverness. Similarly, 'Make Me' takes key elements from 'Do Ya' and 'Don't Let It Go' bears more than a passing similarity to both 'Shine A Little Love' and 'Don't Bring Me Down'. The only song which really doesn't sound much like being a song by either Jeff or E.L.O. is 'The Ol' College Try', which is a pretty decent, melodic song, even if I didn't really care for the lyrics or female vocals.
Even given my reservations about some factors of this project, I have to admit that it's largely brilliant and that fans of E.L.O. and Jeff Lynne will definitely get a huge kick from 'Alpacas Orgling', but it is a similar experience to meeting a person who looks exactly like someone you know, but isn't them. Trust me, it's worth meeting them anyway.