CD Review of Alpacas Orgling by L.E.O.

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Alpacas Orgling
starstarstarstarno star Label: Cheap Lullaby Records
Released: 2006
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“An ‘orgle’ is the mating sound of a llama or alpaca, made by the male when he is in heat. The sound is reminiscent of gargling, but with a more forceful, buzzing edge. Males begin the sound when they become aroused and continue throughout the act of procreation — from 15 minutes to more than an hour.”

- from the Wikipedia entry on llamas.

There. And now that that’s out of the way…

If one were making a list of the things no one in the world was clamoring for, surely near the top would be “an album’s worth of songs paying tribute to the sound and spirit of the Electric Light Orchestra.” Did you catch the description? It’s not a collection of ELO covers; that’s been done quite well already, thanks to Not Lame Records’ Lynne Me Your Ears. Basically, L.E.O. is to ELO what the Rutles were to the Beatles…except they’re not trying to be funny.

The phrase “pop collective” has been used to describe L.E.O., and it’s as good a description as any. The project came about courtesy of Bleu, the singer/songwriter probably best known to mainstream audiences for “Somebody Else,” the song of his that ended up on the soundtrack to the first “Spider-Man” movie. Serving as the album’s executive producer, Bleu pulled together a decidedly diverse crowd of performers, including Paula Kelley, Andy Sturmer (Jellyfish), Mike Viola (the Candy Butchers), John Fields (the Rembrandts), Tony Goddess (Papas Fritas), Matt Mahaffey (sELF), Jason Scheff (Chicago), Steve Gorman (the Black Crowes), and…wait for it…Hanson.

Listening to Alpacas Orgling…and I’m referring to the album rather than the aforementioned llama mating call, lest there be any question…is going to be a particularly fun experience for fans of Jeff Lynne’s back catalog. “Let’s see,” they’ll say, “’Ya Had Me Goin’,’ that’s clearly borrowing from ‘Evil Woman,’ and I’m pretty sure they’re riffing on ‘Do Ya’ in ‘Make Me,’” and so forth and so on; in other words, there’s much “spot the inspiration” to be had, with sweeping strings, gorgeous harmonies, and choruses to die for. In fact, there’s only one song that sounds less like an ELO song than something from Bleu’s own back catalog, and that’s “The Ol’ College Try,” a duet with Kelley that’s about finding love in one’s college senior year.

Bleu handles most of the singing on the album, though in addition to “Distraction,” he also shares duties on “The Ol’ College Try,” this time with Viola. (The former Candy Butcher later scores a solo stint in front of the mike on “Make Me.”) Sturmer even takes lead vocals during a brief portion of “Goodbye Innocence”…though it only lasts long enough for you to say, “Hey, you son of a bitch, it’s been thirteen years since Spilt Milk and, clearly, you still sound awesome, so where’s that fucking solo album already?” (Actually, you might not say that. But that’s totally what *I* said.)

Alpacas Orgling is an undeniably fun listening experience. It’s such a loving tribute, in fact, that one has to wonder how long it will take for a copy of the disc to make it into Mr. Lynne’s hands…and if he’ll be kind enough to send them kudos.

Well, just in case he doesn’t, here’s our four stars, at least.

~Will Harris