- The Washington Times - Monday, June 11, 2001

NEW YORK — Its a paradox of music that an act called an orchestra is essentially one man working alone in his bathroom. Or his bedroom. Or his living room. The Electric Light Orchestra always has been about a quiet man who likes a big sound.
Fifteen years after its last album, ELO has re-formed — so to speak — behind its reclusive leader, Jeff Lynne. That brings back to life an act that was a radio fixture in the late 1970s, adding classical flourishes to pop-rock in hits such as "Evil Woman," "Turn to Stone" and "Livin Thing."
Mr. Lynnes new album, "Zoom," revels in its ELO references. Its airtight, slickly produced pop with an early rock backbeat will either strike a nostalgic chord or appear hopelessly out of date in todays marketplace.
Mr. Lynne is a soft-spoken British native who wears sunglasses indoors more out of shyness than vanity. The one solo album he released during the past 15 years failed partly because more people knew the ELO name than his own.
"Ive never been much of a shouter," he says. "Im not one of those guys who gets out there and says, 'Hey everybody, put your hands together. Im sort of quiet and laid-back, I suppose, and never really went for the celebrity side of it. The work I like. I love making records."
He enjoys it so much that he never really escapes it. Mr. Lynne has torn apart his Los Angeles-area home and rewired it so he can plug in microphones and other equipment in every room.
His entire house doubles as a recording studio. "You can get different sounds in every room," he says. "Every room has a quirky little shape and different reflections. I have a ballroom with a 10-second reverb time. I record my grand piano in there and also have some drums, which is a racket."
Engineers help him achieve the proper sound, and he occasionally brings in guests. "Zoom" features as many ex-Beatles (George Harrison and Ringo Starr) as former ELO members: besides himself, Richard Tandy plays keyboards on one song.
He mostly works alone, though. His existence now is not very different from the solitary creative life he led in ELOs heyday. Sometimes members of the group wouldnt hear their new record until after it was for sale.
ELO never got much critical respect and still doesnt. A box set of the bands best work came out virtually unnoticed last year. Mr. Lynne doesnt get angry about that but still — quietly, of course — lets his pride show.
"There are so many platinum albums I cant complain about anything,"Mr. Lynne says. "My songs have been played millions of times on the radio. I get these statements that say when my songs have been played a million times, and Ive got about a half-dozen of them. I consider that great respect."
Mr. Lynne has assembled a band for concert dates. Its all new except for him and Mr. Tandy, and it even includes his girlfriend, Rosie Vela, whom Mr. Lynne sings about in the song "Stranger on a Quiet Street."
Following the groups dissolution in 1986 (some former ELO members continued in an outfit called ELO, Part Two), Mr. Lynne concentrated on album production. He produced Mr. Harrisons last solo album, "Cloud Nine," Tom Pettys "Full Moon Fever" and Roy Orbisons hit "You Got It."
He says the work taught him how to simplify his own material.
"I always used to think that you couldnt have too much," he says. "Lets have eight pianos, or lets have 25 guitars or whatever. And then I realized from working with all of these guys that if nobody is suggesting that we fill in all these holes, then maybe the holes can be there after all."
In the ultimate achievement for a boy who grew up a Beatles fan, he helped put together the two new songs recorded for that bands "Anthology" project.
"To have the three of them in the same room and Im there with them, having been invited, is stunning and scary and fantastic all at the same time," he says. "I have very happy memories. It was just so much fun to see them getting along so well and having such a laugh in the studio.
"Sometimes they say that you never want to meet your heroes," he says, "but Im glad I met all mine. They all turned out to be really good."
With Mr. Harrison, Mr. Petty, Bob Dylan, Mr. Orbison and later Jim Keltner, Mr. Lynne was a member of the short-lived supergroup the Traveling Wilburys.
The Wilburys put out two albums to much acclaim but havent been heard from in the decade since.
"We always talk about it," Mr. Lynne says. "Whenever I see George, if were having dinner or something, well say, 'Yeah, the Wilburys. We should do them again. … We never get around to it."

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