Electric Light Orchestra, the symphonic rock band led by production wizard Jeff Lynne, returns in November with Alone in the Universe, its first album since 2001’s Zoom. And, in a sense, Lynne — who recently said he did “all the singing and playing” on the collection — was alone: None of the band’s founding members joined him for the recording, which he’s releasing under the moniker “Jeff Lynne’s ELO.”
But, as Lynne tells EW, the name tweak doesn’t matter much. “I wrote every song that that name has ever done,” he explains by phone from London. “I think it’s a shame to throw it away, because it is my legacy.”
Lynne’s right. The signature sound ELO perfected in the 70s and 80s — shimmering guitars, orchestral swirls, and infectious vocal melodies — has remained intact on tracks he’s shared from Alone. But where “When I Was A Boy” and “When The Night Comes” applied Lynne’s style to balladry, “One Step at a Time,” streaming exclusively below, ratchets up the pace.
“I didn’t have quite enough up-tempo” songs, Lynne says. “It’s got some very intricate chords in the verse, which I like a lot, because it’s sort of old-fashioned music but with a regular rock and roll beat.”
That cross-section of influences stems from Long Wave, the album featuring covers of artists like Charlie Chaplin and Rodgers & Hammerstein that Lynne released under his own name in 2012. “I learned how those old masters used to write those songs, because I learned every part on every instrument to make the record,” he says. “It taught me different ways of reaching the same place but going a different route.”
That’s just the latest in a series of projects, among them producing records for the likes of George Harrison, Tom Petty, and Regina Spektor, that have contributed to Lynne learning “a hell of a lot since the first go of ELO” ended decades ago and eliminating the “slight guesswork” he says characterized his earlier recordings.
“The whole album represents these new chords and just the thrill of it,” he says. “I know how to get a sound exactly as I want it, and I know which way to get it.”
Check out EW’s premiere of “One Step at a Time” below, and stay tuned for Alone in the Universe, out Nov. 13.