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ALBUM REVIEW : *** JEFF LYNNE "Armchair Theatre" Warner Bros. : Albums are rated from five stars (a classic) to one star (poor).

June 17, 1990|STEVE HOCHMAN

Without looking at the credits, you'd swear that the former Electric Light Orchestra maestro and current Wilbury and producer-to-the-stars called in a bunch of favors for his solo debut. Scrambled with Lynne's own distinctively lush ELO aesthetic, there's some of Roy Orbison's soaring romanticism, a dash of Tom Petty's dry wit, a touch of Dave Edmunds' roots consciousness. And there's certainly no mistaking George Harrison's Indian modality on the album's two most arresting tracks, the hauntingly curry-flavored "Now You're Gone" and "Don't Say Goodbye," in which Harrisonian verses alternate with an Elvis-ish chorus.

But read the credits and you'll see that save for one co-writing credit by Petty and a couple of guitar contributions by Harrison, this is all the theater of Lynne's mind and a product of his talents as a musical appropriator and customizer. The best songs generally take a mix 'n' match approach a la the Wilburys, with disparate styles contrasting with and complementing each other, sometimes from one line to the next. The least successful are three relatively perfunctory non-originals (the rocker "Don't Let Go" and the sentimental "September Song" and "Stormy Weather") that merely take up space and detract from Lynne's own assemblages. As is, it's still a thoroughly enjoyable show.

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