In the 1970s, the Electric Light Orchestra, or E.L.O., shook up the pop music world by adding an amplified string quartet to their mix. On stage, the classically-trained cellists and violinists dressed like rock stars, and danced as they played. Founding member Jeff Lynne has just re-activated the Electric Light Orchestra for a new album called "Zoom." With the return of E.L.O., this is their first collection of new material in 15 years.
Led by songwriter, vocalist, instrumentalist and production genius Jeff Lynne, the Electric Light Orchestra scored 17 Top 40 hits from 1970 to 1986, and were a popular concert attraction. E.L.O.'s included "Evil Woman," "Strange Magic," "Telephone Line" and the Chuck Berry classic "Roll Over Beethoven."
The new album combines the classic E.L.O. elements of layered harmonies, string arrangements and ringing guitars along with the distinctive voice of founder Jeff Lynne. He also plays lead and rhythm guitars, cello, piano, bass and drums. Long-time E.L.O. keyboard player Richard Tandy is also featured on "Zoom." Jeff says he tore apart his home in Los Angeles, and re-wired it so he could plug in microphones, instruments and recording equipment in every single room.
Strongly influenced by The Beatles, the members of E.L.O. sought to spread their passion for classical music to the younger generation. At the peak of their popularity, they had grown to include a 40-piece orchestra and 30-voice choir.
After the break-up of E.L.O. in 1986, Jeff Lynne pursued a solo career, and was in demand as a producer, arranger and songwriter. In 1988, he formed the Traveling Wilburys with Tom Petty, Bob Dylan, the late Roy Orbison and former Beatle George Harrison.
Jeff Lynne continued his Beatles connection by helping to produce the band's "Anthology" album series, along with the surviving members. On "Zoom," Beatles member Ringo Starr adds some drum parts, and George Harrison is featured on slide guitar.
Several of E.L.O.'s classic albums have just been released in state-of-the-art, digitally-remastered editions. Fans are also happy about "Flashback," a three-CD box set compiled by Jeff Lynne, that spans E.L.O.'s entire career from 1970 to 1986.
This week, E.L.O. will participate in an episode of the "Storytellers" series on cable television network VH-1, where artists tell about the inspirations behind their songs, and play them for a live studio audience. The Electric Light Orchestra is currently on a major tour of clubs and theaters across the U.S.