Jeff Lynne’s ELO ALONE IN THE UNIVERSE

If it sounds like ELO, feels like ELO and plays like ELO, then it must be “Alone In the Universe” by Jeff Lynne’s ELO, as it is now called.

Branding strategies aside, Lynne has long personified the Electric Light Orchestra and his first new songs under a similar tag since 2001’s overlooked “Zoom” instantly reveal his trademarks — melodic meticulousness, layers of vocals, sundry Beatle-isms and a tint of melancholy even on the fast tracks.

Except for some backing vocals by daughter Laura and recording engineer Steve Jay’s tambourine and shakers, Lynne is truly alone in his universe.

Some of the 10 tunes would have fit nicely on albums by others he’s produced, including “I’m Leaving You” (George Harrison), “Dirty to the Bone” (Tom Petty) and “All My Life” (Roy Orbison). Nearly all are evocative of ELO’s 1970s output, but with the bombast turned down from 11.

On lead single “When I Was A Boy,” Lynne pulls back the curtain to reveal his childhood dreams of making it in music, not wanting to “work on the milk or the bread,” an amiable revelation from one of rock’s more reticent frontmen.

When ELO was a band at its peak, it released an album a year. Though few work at that pace anymore, hopefully we won’t have to wait 15 years for Lynne’s next set of originals, no matter whose name is on the cover.

Pablo Gorondi

Kirk Franklin LOSING MY RELIGION

Kirk Franklin encourages Christians to accept the flaws of others rather than convict them on the title track of his new album, “Losing My Religion.”

The spoken-word album opener sets the tone for Franklin, who returns four years after his 2011 offering, “Hello Fear,” which earned the performer his ninth Grammy Award. He doesn’t miss a step on his new project, delivering a fresh take on often heard messages in a very well-crafted album from the first song to the 13th.

On “Pray for Me,” Franklin expresses his imperfections and the power of prayer. He suggests that placing faith in God will create more harmony on the album’s single, “Wanna Be Happy?”

Franklin talks about his need for Jesus Christ in his life, confessing that he could pray more on the enjoyable ballad “Intercession.” And he takes a backseat on “When,” allowing Kim Burrell and Lalah Hathaway to team up on the impressive, piano-driven duet.

“My World Needs You,” featuring Tamela Mann, Tasha Cobbs and Sarah Reeves, is a praise and worship song that will uplift the soul.

Overall, “Losing My Religion” is proof that Franklin’s music still has the ability to inspire those who lack faith.

Jonathan Landrum Jr.