Bubble Gum Orchestra rocks–plain and simple. But for those who missed the previous pieces on BGO, the act is the brainchild of Texas-based singer-songwriter Michael Laine Hildebrandt. Hildebrandt composes new music based on his musical influences: Jeff Lynne, Electric Light Orchestra, The Beatles, The Buggles and Boston.
His fourth and latest full-length release, Beyond Time, contains 14 cuts. While ELO fans might notice that this CD is strongly influenced by ELO’s album Time, Hildebrandt has never denied his love of the band. Indeed, he musically revels in it.
When questioned about the inevitable comparisons, Hildebrandt had this to say: “(Sounding) too much like Jeff Lynne and ELO is a good thing here in BGO land. Seriously, just to let everyone know that BGO records are written and recorded out of my love of music and my personal spiritual connection to the semi orchestrated music I grew up loving . . . nothing more, nothing less. BGO is not a tribute or cover, but a whole new recording in the style of ELO, just the style. If anyone out there in the universe expects or wants BGO to be just a different version of ELO, they will be very disappointed. Only Mr. Lynne can deliver a true ELO album and only I can deliver BGO. “
“Anthem Of Hope”
On this new release he is only occasionally assisted by brother guitarist/composer Douglas Hildebrandt, Cult of Wedge guitarist Pete Hackett, vocalist Joey C. Jones and ex-Wings trumpeter Steve Howard.
The album opens on “Anthem Of Hope”. It’s an interesting instrumental that barely hints at what is to come on this disc but appropriately enough serves as the CD’s “Prologue” as the tribute to ELO’s Time begins. (There is oddly something here that is briefly reminiscent of early Foreigner as well.)
“23rd Century Woman”.
The second selection is “23rd Century Woman”. This one, like the lead-in instrumental is by Michael Laine Hildebrandt and is a surprisingly apt contrast to ELO’s “21st Century Man”. Here he begins telling his tuneful tale of “life, love and of a man and his spaceship that has been launched into a worm hole in the year 2395 arriving millions and millions of years later in a place no one has ever seen or could imagine . . .’Beyond Time’.”
“Trans Form Her”
As “Trans Form Her” opens it is clear that the musical mood has been set. This will be a journey with familiar themes and a new yet familiar signature sound. The main character is spinning his web of songstories as a form of therapy as he struggles to accept he will never make it home.
“I’m In Love With A Robot” and “Return 2 4 Ever”
“I’m In Love With A Robot” here features music composed by brother Doug. It works quite well in the overall scheme of things sharing a thematic element with ELO’s “Yours Truly 2095”. (It would make your rockin’ reviewer’s playlist regardless of the clever connection though.)
“Return 2 4 Ever” is also a track that features musical composition by Douglas Hildebrandt. It’s an early favorite of both fans and critics alike,
”Earth Below Me”
The next number is ”Earth Below Me”. Michael gets a little help from his friends on this one to really flesh it out. Pete Hackett adds some noteworthy work on lead guitars and Hildebrandt introduces singer Joey C. Jones as well. Everyone works well together here as they build towards the next track.
”ELO Forever” is the album’s premiere single. One must wonder though why it took Hildebrandt so long to put out this song. It’s laced with ELO hit song titles much the way Lynn’s “Beatles Forever” is laced with Lennon-McCartney song titles. It’s fun for fans of both ELO and BGO. Brother Doug takes up the guitars and backing vocals as Jones returns to sing lead this time.
”I’m Coming Back Home”
”I’m Coming Back Home” follows here. This one was written entirely by Douglas Hildebrandt. There must be something in the genes, however, because the brother’s complement each other. The song is dedicated to the late Brad Delp from the band Boston . . . another great act that began with one man in a basement.
“We’ve Lost Our Connection”, ”God Save us All (Overture)” and “The World’s About To End (Let’s Live For Today)”
Also included here is “We’ve Lost Our Connection”. This is, perhaps, a bit overlooked by some critics but nevertheless serves as yet another example of what BGO is about. ”God Save us All (Overture)” comes next and serves to raise the curtain on the cataclysmic cut “The World’s About To End (Let’s Live For Today)”.
”Destination Home” has been compared—and rightly so—to Pink Floyd’s “Coming Back To Life”. Whether it was an intentional tribute or Hildebrandt’s love of some of the best classic rock acts was the subconscious cause of this tune is unclear and honestly doesn’t matter. It works in terms of the whole “loneliness of deep space” theme and even features Steve Howard on trumpet.
“Beyond Time” and “Beyond Time (Underture)”
The album begins to wind down with the titular track “Beyond Time”. Again, ELO comparisons abound but by now that’s no surprise. What is surprising is how well Hildebrandt does it. The closing cut is, of course, “Beyond Time (Underture)”. It’s an apt end to an album that while often not as light serves as the perfect foil or even a good sequel to the above-mentioned Time. All in all, Beyond Time goes beyond ELO and offers the world an “Anthem OF Hope” for both the appreciation of those who came before and those who are on their way.
My name is Phoenix and . . . that’s the bottom line.