Electric Family Choir
F you believe Jeff Lynne to be Almighty, then 'Praise be to Mr. Blue Sky, 'tis a Strange Magic that allows the Evil Woman to leadest thou to Xanadu.' And listen to The Secret Powers. The last time I heard such a great mix of retro influences was Andrew Gold's 'Fraternal Order of The All' -- and the last time I heard true ELO worship was Bleu's supergroup 'LEO'. Well here we have the two types of worship combined into one pretty fantastic album. Ryan "Shmed" Maynes made the move to Missoula, Montana. He built a recording studio in his backyard in the hopes of making a living as an engineer, producer, and musician. Lots of 'historical' data about the group is emerging, but one thing is certain -- this album is totally entertaining. The production of each song is chocked full of layers and layers of detail. 'Orange Trees' is vintage Lynne and sounds like it fell off the 'Out of The Blue' album. In between songs are quick odd 'podcasts' from Uncle Shmed. Then comes the wonderful bouncy Jellyfish-like 'Maryanne' full of ascending chords and waltz timing changes and carnival-like ending. Then 'By The Sea' is a perfect companion for Harry Nilsson's 'Think About Your Troubles.' A theatrical multi-part harmony on 'Lazy Men' would make Bryan Scary fans jealous. This leads us the then penultimate ELO ballad 'Misery.' I could go on, but you get the gist. The group keeps the story moving until the end when they break character. Along the way you are treated to musical roller coaster ride. No weak spots either, as every track sparkles with great melody and multi-instrumental greatness and easily makes my top ten this year. So remember to wear clean underpants and all hail Shmed.