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Author Topic: Hoping to shine a little love on '70s pop-rock band ELO  (Read 3886 times)
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« on: Nov 11, 2006, 05:47 »

Hoping to shine a little love on '70s pop-rock band ELO
By Joan Anderman, Globe Staff  |  November 11, 2006


Retro is in, young bands are tripping over their skinny trousers to pay tribute to Joy Division and the Cure , and nowhere on the list of au courant influences is Electric Light Orchestra . To refresh: ELO made elaborately arranged, unabashedly commercial, decidedly unhip pop-rock. For obvious reasons it's remained frozen in circa-1970s amber.

Until now.

A silent subculture of ELO obsessives has been genuflecting for four years in the privacy of their home studios, and the fruits of their labors appeared in record stores last month. "Alpacas Orgling" is an album of original songs written and recorded by a far-flung collective called L.E.O. -- using, in the words of their fearless leader, "the musical vocabulary" of ELO mastermind Jeff Lynne .

Boston native Bleu is spearheading the ELO lovefest. Bleu has been happily shacked up in Los Angeles since last summer but is back in Beantown this week for a show tonight at T.T. the Bear's Place , the first of three CD release concerts for "Alpacas Orgling." He'll be backed by the Everyday Visuals , and Alex Necochea and Maclaine Diemer , now in Bang Camaro. Candy Butcher Mike Viola has promised to make a special appearance.

Nothing about this project makes much sense: certainly not the album title (a nod to alpaca farmer and Extreme bassist Pat Badger , who gave Bleu a place to live for six months) nor the band name, which Bleu has only recently decided should stand for Little E-mail Operas.

"I'd send tracks to people over instant messenger and say , ' Do whatever you want to do in the style of Jeff Lynne , ' and they'd send it back," explains Bleu. "I never had the intention of making this into an album. The whole project is stupid. But I'll tell you why I did it. Because it was [expletive] fun."

L.E.O. has been one happy accident from the get-go. It started several years ago when Bleu (whose real name is William James McAuley III ) was chatting with his pal Dan Wilson , from the band Semisonic . Bleu was pledging his affection for ELO and mentioned how curious he was about Lynne's production techniques. Wilson, who happened to be working on a solo album with producer Rick Rubin , a friend of Lynne's, casually inquired about the ELO studio process and Rubin spilled the beans -- essentially providing Bleu with his blueprint.

Among the revelations: Lynne records drums one at a time, literally. The snare drum is laid down on one track, then the kick is recorded on another , then the tom-tom, etc. Even Ringo Starr , a frequent Lynne sideman, Bleu points out, complied with the shenanigans. Lynne doesn't ever use a hi-hat, opting instead to replace the cymbal with acoustic guitars, which are always strummed in a measured rhythm, with no accents, as if they were percussion. Background vocals are recorded one at a time, as well, and then placed at the front of the mix, as prominent as any other instrument.

"And that's just scratching the surface," says Bleu. "He's idiosyncratic, but his idiosyncracies are all focused on a love of pop. I really like artful pop for the masses."

Among the motley crew of collaborators Bleu recruited are members of the Black Crowes , Chicago , Jellyfish , the Candy Butchers , Papas Fritas , and Self . All of the Hanson brothers appear on the album, as does producer John Fields , veteran of sessions with Switchfoot and Andrew W.K.

"We all love Jeff Lynne," says Fields. "We also love the Bee Gees and Barbra Streisand . It's hard for the guys from the Yeah Yeah Yeahs to say that. But I'm proud to say it."

Bleu hasn't yet heard from Lynne. But he has heard that Dhani Harrison , George's son and Lynne's godson , is a fan, so odds are good the L.E.O. record will eventually make its way into the

master's hands. Bleu says that a nod of approval from Lynne would be "a dream come true." He confesses that his only real goal in releasing the album is meeting Lynne, an event that would involve, Bleu says, "a lot of really geeky questions."

Meanwhile, the singer and songwriter has two finished solo records, both of which are tied up in legal wranglings with his former record company, Aware . Bleu and Viola have formed an indie band called the Major Labels , and he's producing a number of LA bands.

And Bleu is already planning his next homage, a project called Loud Lion . Friends near and far are signing on and "totally psyched," says Bleu, to pay tribute to the quintessential arena-rock producer Mutt Lange .

Joan Anderman can be reached at anderman@globe.com. She blogs at boston.com/ae/music/blog.  

? Copyright 2006 The New York Times Company
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