I discovered Zoom accidentally one day while my buddy Phil and I were scrounging around the old CD Warehouse in Wilson, NC. We used to hit up pawn shops and used music stores hoping to find good deals. I remember briefly glancing at the new releases and seeing a familiar logo. I stopped and looked again, not believing what I was seeing. An updated version of the classic ELO spaceship graced the cover.
I picked up the CD and looked to see if it was a new album from the inappropriately named ELO Part Two. I knew that Bev Bevan and some former members had released a couple of albums under that name but I wasn’t seeing the Part Two anywhere. I looked on the back and smiled when I saw Jeff Lynne’s name. It had been fifteen years since Jeff Lynne had released what I assumed would be the last ELO album. That one was called Balance Of Power and had come out when I was sixteen.
I bought it without even thinking about it. Outside of a few unreleased tracks on a box set I hadn’t heard new music from ELO since I was in high school. Jeff Lynne had produced music with the Traveling Wilburys, Tom Petty, and others but this was ELO. I didn’t know what to expect and could hardly wait to get home and pop it in the stereo. The first thing I noticed when I read the liner notes was that Richard Tandy was the only former member who played on it. There were guest performances from both George Harrison and Ringo Starr and I thought that was pretty cool.
I know some longtime fans didn’t care for Zoom when it came out. Many of them didn’t care for Balance Of Power back in 1986 so it made sense that they wouldn’t like what essentially was a Jeff Lynne solo album with the ELO name tacked on. Some of these same fans made the same complaint last year when Alone In The Universe was released. I confess that I really don’t care who is playing on the album if Jeff Lynne is writing and singing the songs. To me, that is what makes it ELO. Using that criteria, Zoom was exactly what I wanted to hear.
The production is textbook Jeff Lynne. It pretty much sounds like everything he’s done since George Harrison’s Cloud Nine in 1987. The drums, the guitars, and the vocals are classic Jeff Lynne. I would argue that Zoom is more of an ELO album than Time, Secret Messages, and Balance Of Power and I love all three of them. Zoom is a more organic album and a much warmer vibe than any of the three albums I just mentioned. It even has moments when the strings come in and make it feel like an old school ELO album. I honestly don’t know why it didn’t sell well or why the planned tour get scrapped. At least one show was filmed and it is a killer.
Personally, I think the album has aged well. It’s not “classic” ELO but it’s better than the most recent album (which I love) and it’s probably better than the one before it (which is a personal favorite). Zoom probably didn’t make any new fans but I have to believe that most ELO fans were happy to have it. I sure was.
Grace and peace