Armchair Theatre
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61 of 62 people found the following review helpful
on December 16, 2003
Jeff Lynne is one of those musicians that you can't help but notice after awhile. I loved ELO, particularly the Discovery album. Later, I really got into the soundtrack from Electric Dreams. Then I got into something else and realized that Lynne's name was stamped on all of them.
He is a master of a certain sound and this album showcases it. Some of the songs are reminiscent of ELO to me (Don't Say Goodbye, Every Little Thing, Save Me Now) but mixed with widely differing sounds. Nobody Home is great - has somewhat of an r & b feeling to it. Don't Let Go has a little r&b and maybe a Buddy Holly type tempo. Now Your Gone has piano rifts and Hindu-esque laces like those used in some of the later Beatles music that was almost certainly George Harrison's influence - makes for a beautiful and mournful tune. Then he takes classics like Stormy Weather and September Song and brings them up from the earlier part of this century and makes them young and fresh with his distinctive sound.
Absolutely fantastic - a genuine genuis. All of the songs are good. If you like ELO, this is even better. If you like George Harrison's solo work, you'll probably love this. Overall, it has kind of a synthetic bluesy, jazzy pop tempo kind of sound. Lyrics are fantastic. How do you define genius?
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65 of 72 people found the following review helpful
on December 2, 2003
... all that's decent in the world. Of a completely different nature than the stuff most everyone who knows Jeff Lynne for (the music of Electric Light Orchestra), this obscure little masterpiece is definitely worth the long search it might take to find a copy (I had a difficult time tracking one down, but I see that there are several used copies available here at Amazon. Bad news for me, but as I've had my copy for a while now that just means one more for some lucky soul who has yet to give this album a try). It's a crime that this album wasn't a success in the USA when it was released (I understand that it did very well in England, but that wasn't enough to make it last... "Armchair Theatre" has been out of print for going on ten years now, and I think that's just awful).
I found out about Jeff Lynne in a rather obscure way... two ways, in fact. First off, when I was a wee lad of 11 my dad took my brother and me along with one of our cousins to see "Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves", during the time of its original theatrical release. If there's any one thing I recall leaving a definite impression on me, it was the musical score by Michael Kamen (who I should note passed away two weeks ago, at the time I write this review). I bought the soundtrack as soon as it was released (on tape... I upgraded to CD many years later), and enjoyed it immensely... my first real introduction to orchestra music, it was (Disney's "Fantasia", which I saw a couple years later, was my second. The metal/Beatles revolution wasn't to occur in my life for another decade or so). In addition to the instrumental music heard during the film, tacked on to the end of the album were a pair of "regular" songs... the one that everyone knows, "Everything I Do blah blah blah" (if ever there was an overplayed song...), and the one that "**I**" really liked, "Wild Times", the final song on the album that no one to my knowledge even paid attention to, except for me.
"Wild Times", sung by some guy I'd never heard of named Jeff Lynne, really blew my young mind away and to this day, going on thirteen years later, remains one of my favorite songs (another one that, if I die anytime soon, I want to have played at my funeral, for those of you who have the power to make it so, should it unfortunately come to pass). It's really an enchanting, mysterious song, far far too short, and as the years passed I wanted to hear more from this Lynne fellow, whoever he was. Searches for his name on Amazon and Ebay revealed nothing (this was before Amazon had a listing for out of print albums such as this). I gave up on Lynne, pretty much forgetting even his name, though never the song.
In late 2001, following the death of George Harrison, through the miracle of a little service called Morpheus, my brother downloaded the music video to Harrison's 1980s tune "Got My Mind Set on You". Great song, if a bit repetitive, and a nifty video. One guy I noticed thanks to his incredible head of curly hair and sunglasses really stuck out for me. Intruiged by the hair, I wanted to find out more about this guy, and discovered his name was Jeff Lynne... but this was so far after I'd given up on searching for the singer of "Wild Times" that I didn't realize it was the same man, having forgotten his name! I got into ELO a little while later, starting with the latest release (really more of Lynne solo album, but that's not important right now), "Zoom", somehow not recognizing the voice who was singing! One day, for reasons I cannot even remember now, I was looking at the liner notes to my copy of the Robin Hood soundtrack when I noticed the name Jeff Lynne as the composer/singer of "Wild Times"... talk about your surprises! As Lynne had always been credited as Electric Light Orchestra at the time I was searching for him, I'd never been able to find anything under his actual name.
God bless you for reading all of that.
While "Wild Times" has never been equaled by any of the other music that Lynne has produced since (and from my limited really real ELO experience, restricted to just two albums, "Face the Music" and "Time"), the music you'll hear here on "Armchair Theatre" is still wonderful stuff. Since I've been away at college I have't been able to listen to this album for several months (it's one of many I unfortunately left at home), but I've had several times since I left it a song from this album finding its way into my head and tormenting me because I can't actually hear it and satisfy the hunger. Highlights for "Armchair" include the exotic vocals and mysterious piano playing on "Now You're Gone", the melody and guitar playing on "What Would it Take", and the Elvis Presley-inspired "Don't Let Go". Lynne's vocals are excellent (he has a very distinct sound, and I find it very funny I wasn't able to recognize him as the "Wild Times" guy for so long!), and it's nice to know that George Harrison himself was on hand to play guitar on several of the songs (less than half, I think, but still quite a few). The album ends with the sweet, though rather sad enviromentally-minded tune "Save Me Now", and a couple of little Easter eggs before finishing up.
"Armchair" sounds nothing like Electric Light Orchestra. It's really got the sound of the Traveling Wilburys, which happened first before and then again after this album, which is great news if you like the Wilburys stuff (and I do). As getting a hold of either or both of the two Wilburys albums can be rather expensive, if you want an idea of what they sound like and don't feel like forking over quite so much cash, just grab an inexpensive copy of "Armchair" and check it out. If you want more, it can serve as a nice introduction, and it's good enough, you'll still have another solid album to keep in your music collection.
Carry on Carry on,
MN
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26 of 27 people found the following review helpful
on January 25, 2005
A little gem of an album that is becoming increasingly rare as it spends further years inexplicably out of print. Other reviewers got it spot on when commenting that this is definitely not ELO. But it was never meant to be. There is a very down to earth and back to basics feel to this very personal and intentionally self-indulgent project, clearly influenced and possibly inspired by recent collaborations with Tom Petty, Roy Orbison, George Harrison et al. The sound that Lynne played such an integral part in creating on albums such as 'Full Moon Fever' and 'Cloud Nine', also runs through this work. Beautifully crafted songs appear all over this rather too short masterpiece, interestingly most of which were recorded in various rooms in Lynne's very own mansion. Although often accused of "over-producing" songs, this is not very apparent on this album, as most of the songs have an almost 'live' and intimate feel to them, perhaps because we're listening to Jeff as he is rocking away in his living room or kitchen! Other than his enormous producing expertise, Lynne's biggest asset is his astounding and unfailing voice that lends itself so effortlessly to multi-layer harmonies, to best effect on my personal favourite 'What Would It Take'. The covers of a couple of standards detract a little from the overall direction of this album, leaving the listener a touch confused about what Lynne was trying to achieve. My personal feeling is that Jeff made this album and recorded all of the stylistically varied songs on it because he wanted to do it, which is not at all selfish or too much to ask from someone who has greatly inspired others over the years and more recently, resurrected the careers of some of his own musical heroes.
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12 of 12 people found the following review helpful
on November 5, 2004
Jeff Lynne's first solo album comes hot on the heels of producing classics like George Harrison's Cloud Nine, Roy Orbison's Mystery Girl, Tom Petty's Full Moon Fever and the Traveling Wilbury's Vol 1. This album is a pleasure from beginning to end, take Every Little Thing a perfect opener to the classic Lift Me Up which Tom Jones covered in 1994, to What Would It Take and the indian flavoured Now You're Gone. Let me say this Now You're Gone is a bloody marvel and it still gives me goosebumps after 14 years of listening to it.

A magical album unfortunately out of print, hopefully looking to be re-released soon. If you can pick up a copy second hand, do so, it's truly a great album from a legendary musician.
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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
on November 22, 2003
This one has improved with age, as everything Jeff Lynne has ever written. The Wilbury influence is there for sure, specially because George Harrison made contributions in 4 tracks and Tom Petty co-wrote the excellent "Blown Away". The wonderful ELO sound is also present and perfectly blended with the recently acquired influences.
"Armchair Theatre" could be considered as an introduction to the future sound of ELO. "Zoom" (2001) is even better, but in order to enjoy it, you probably need to listen to "Armchair Theater" first. You will find some of Jeff Lynne's best compositions here: "Every Little Thing", "Lift Me Up", "Don't Say Goodbye" and my personal favorite "Blown Away", which is probably the best Petty/Lynne colaboration ever.
This one is a must for all ELO fans and a revelation for the non-converted.
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12 of 13 people found the following review helpful
on December 10, 2004
Just can't say enough about Jeff Lynne. When I first heard the Face The Music album, I was hooked on the ELO sound. When I bought my first serious stereo system, I took Face The Music along with me to the store and played Poker through several amps before making my final choice. On Armchair Theater, you won't find much of the loud ELO of earlier days as Jeff has mellowed with age. The tunes however are mesmerizing. It's one of those rare albums that can be listened to end to end (well, not rare for an ELO album). Jeff is truly a genius and it's an automatic buy for anything he appears on. Two of my more recent purchases with Jeff on them and my two favorite DVD's are the Zoom DVD and the Tribute to George (Harrison) DVD. Jeff is easily the star of both of these gems. On a remotely related note, my 3 favorite bands of all time are ELO, Steely Dan and Alan Parsons Project. When Jeff came out with Zoom a few years ago, I actually knew who Rosie Vela (female singer on Zoom) was as I have an old album of hers called Zazu that was produced by Walter Becker of Steely Dan!
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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
on March 28, 2003
I picked this album up on cassette many years ago as a cutout... After several years, I found it on CD ... as well at a used CD store because I couldn't find it elsewhere. That was the best $$$ I spent. Now, ...I highly recommend you purchase it here on Amazon. You won't be disappointed if you like the Wilbury's or ELO. No, it isn't either one of those, but this is Lynne power pop at its finest. The album is a bit short, but that just means you can hear it again sooner. I hope he has the desire to put out another album one of these days.
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
on March 5, 2003
Jeff Lynne, the man behind Electric Light Orchestra and Traveling Wilburys stepped up and made a solo album. And a GOOD one.
This is easy, catchy rock, pretty much ELO without the synths and effects. This is more of an tribute to the good old days where rock where alive, and not the horribel grungewaste it is today.
Only one medicore song on the album, "Save me Now", while the rest is great! The best songs are the superb "Lift me Up", "Nobody Home", "What would it take", "September Song", "Stormy Weather", "Every Little Thing" and "Blown Away".
WOW. Might as well call the whole record superb. George Harrison is on some of the songs to back him up, no wonder since they have worked close. The record sounds pure and real, it sounds like Lynne had a great time while recording this. The period after ELO`s fading was over, he had a new start, and he wanted to make some music again.
My only complaints about this album, is that it is TOO SHORT! And I am not only talking about a little short, it is way too short. About 40 minutes is not enough, of course thats how much he put on the album, but you just cant get enough of the album, the 40 minutes just zooms past you and leaves you for another round. Best thing is, the record gets better and better, just like an old bottle of Wine.
Ahh how do you put this little masterpiece on paper...
One thing though. The album can be very hard to find. You can almost forget finding it in a music store any longer, best choice would be Ebay or here on Amazon.
Second thing. Dont listen to this album expecting ELO. It is far from ELO. But after some time, I am not sure anymore who I like most...ELO or Armchair Theater.
Yes it is that good.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
Jeff Lynne has a tendency to overproduce things, multi-tracking and overdubbing his music to death. He keeps his bombastic tendencies on a relatively short leash this time out, and while the songs here are still a bit overdone, his catchy pop melodies shine through.

The lead track "Every Little Thing" is a bouncy homage to classic Motown R&B, with a nice fat bass line and rich horn section. His covers of the classic torch songs "September Song" and "Stormy Weather" are especially noteworthy, because Lynne proves himself to be a very competent crooner. His sentimental renditions of these rank up there with the best. "Now You're Gone" is intriguing because it showcases Lynne using his voice like never before or since, along microtonal scales in an Indian or Middle Eastern style, as he wails for his lost love. "Don't Say Goodbye" is the kind of mournful appeal that Lynne's late Traveling Wilburys bandmate, Roy Orbison, built a career on. Lynne's voice doesn't have the range or timbre of Orbison's (hell, whose does? Orbison was one-of-a-kind.) but it can still evoke a deep melancholy.

In short, one helluva collection of fine pop songs, just barely hidden beneath a layer of production gloss. Check it out.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
on September 8, 2003
This is a great album; highest quality production and catchy tunes. It is one of those recordings that stays in your head, and you don't try to get rid of it! Jeff Lynne made his name with ELO and, while there are a few moments when you can catch the resemblence, he makes the grade here as a lead vocalist with a wide variety of musical styles and moods. It should have received much more acclaim. Since it appears to be out of print, I've been able to pick up a couple extra copies just in case something happens to the first one. A must-have.
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