Friday, August 4, 2023

The View On Pop Culture: Jeff Lynne, The Band (2002)

Lynne Me Your Ears


Jeff Lynne’s impressive musical career spans some five decades, from mid-to-late ‘60s British bands like Idle Race and the Move to the 1970s hit-making machine that was the Electric Light Orchestra. During the late ‘80s, Lynne joined George Harrison, Bob Dylan, Roy Orbison, and Tom Petty to record two hit albums as the Traveling Wilburys. Lynne has also achieved a great deal of success on the other side of the mixing board, producing notable albums like George Harrison’s 1986 comeback Cloud Nine and Paul McCartney’s critically-acclaimed Flaming Pie as well as works from folks like Tom Petty, Dave Edmunds, and Ringo Starr. It’s a tribute to the man’s talents that he has worked in the studio and behind the microphone with three of the four Beatles, Bob Dylan, Roy Orbison, and Brian Wilson of the Beach Boys.

It is Lynne’s talent as a songwriter, however, that is under consideration on the two-CD tribute album Lynne Me Your Ears (Not Lame Records). Project coordinator and executive producer Doug Powell (himself a member of alt-country supergroup SWAG) has lined up an impressive roster of musicians to pay tribute to Mr. Lynne. From old school pop devotees such as Todd Rundgren, Peter Holsapple, Richard Barone, and Bill Lloyd to young turks such as Sixpence None The Richer, Sparkle*Jets UK, and the Shazam, the contributing artists do a wonderful job in representing the magic of Lynne’s classic lyricism and Beatlesque melodies. Like any affair of this sort, there are some song tributes here that work better than others, but I can safely say that there is little chaff to be found among the thirty-two songs on Lynne Me Your Ears.

I have my personal favorites on the album, among them a wistful reading of the Wilburys’ hit “Handle with Care” by Jamie Hoover and former Jellyfish frontman Jason Falkner’s strong performance of the Move’s “Do Ya.” Lynne’s former Move bandmate Carl Wayne blows away the youngsters with a soulful reading of ELO’s “Steppin’ Out” while another of rock’s legends, superstar producer Tony Visconti (Bowie, T-Rex), shows his musical chops behind Richard Barone’s vocals on “Mr. Blue Sky.” Contributions from the set’s producer Doug Powell (“Can’t Get It Out of My Head”), Bill Lloyd (“When Time Stood Still”), Jeffrey Foskett (“Telephone Line”) and the Shazam (“Twilight”) are masterful individual tributes that pair each artist’s reverent performance with one of Lynne’s timeless songs. If you’re a fan of Jeff Lynne, the Electric Light Orchestra or classic pop/rock acolytes like the aforementioned contributors to Lynne Me Your Ears, you owe it to yourself (and your ears) to seek out a copy of this wonderful tribute album.

The Band's The Last Waltz
By the time of their 1976 “farewell” performance, the Band had been on the road together for the better part of two decades, first as Ronnie Hawkins’ backing band the Hawks and later as Bob Dylan’s house band. After a memorable 1965/66 tour with the future rock legend, the Hawks settled in Woodstock, New York and became known, simply, as the Band. The release of their 1968 debut, Music From Big Pink, would forever change the future of rock ‘n’ roll. While the rest of the musical world was exploring the limits of hard rock and psychedelica, the Band fused roots rock, folk, county, and R&B into an entirely new and uniquely diverse sound.

Eight years later, though, guitarist/songwriter Robbie Robertson felt that the Band had run its course and the members agreed to call it quits on Thanksgiving Day 1976. Their good-bye show was set for Bill Graham’s Winterland in San Francisco, and to celebrate the Band invited old friends like Eric Clapton and Muddy Waters as well as their mentors Dylan and Hawkins to perform. Director Martin Scorcese agreed to capture the event on film and the rest is, as they say, is rock ‘n’ roll history. The resulting concert film, The Last Waltz, expanded the possibilities of the music documentary much as the Band had changed the perception of how rock music could be played.

The recently released DVD of The Last Waltz (MGM Home Entertainment) offers several high-energy performances by the Band as well as classic turns by guests like Waters, Dylan, Van Morrison, Paul Butterfield, and Joni Mitchell. A snapshot of rock ‘n’ roll in the 1970s, The Last Waltz captures a precious moment in pop culture history unlike few albums or videos have been able to. The DVD includes audio commentaries by Scorsese and Robertson, footage not included in the original film and crystal clear, remixed sound. Rhino Records has also released a four-CD box set of The Last Waltz, the audio documentary of the concert including two-dozen previously unreleased performances. Although the other members would later reform the Band without Robertson (and, as it was later proven, didn’t really want to break up in the first place), the night frozen in time by The Last Waltz film and recording nevertheless closed an important chapter in the history of the Band. (View From The Hill, June 2002)

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