A New World Record
REVIEW BY: Jeff Clutterbuck
ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED: 02/09/2006
Certain bands defined the sound of music in the ‘70s. While much appreciated in their time, ELO has become a forgotten part of the rock scene, save for a couple overplayed hits. I don’t know anyone who owns more than just a few of their records. Hell, I’m a fan, and I only own three.
One of those, however, is ELO’s best: A
If you don’t like The Beatles, chances are you won’t like ELO. While I won’t go so far as to say their sound was 100 percent derivative of the Fab Four, their influences are definitely apparent. Jeff Lynne has said as much throughout the years, and there are some songs on this album that really make you wonder what The Beatles would have sounded like had they been together in 1975, the prime example being “Telephone Line.” From the McCartney-esque delivery, to the lush strings that bolster the track and the absolutely stunning “doo-wop” vocals of the chorus, this song wouldn’t be too out of place on Magical Mystery Tour.
I consider “Telephone Line” to be the best track, but there are others that come close. “Shangri-La” is essentially a sequel to “Telephone Line” but because it’s produced so well I didn’t mind the retread. “Do Ya” is one of the band’s best rockers, pretty much the closest to balls out rock Lynne and co. would get (side note: while the album version is nice, the extended version off of Flashback is much better. It fleshes out the song, adding more oomph).
“Livin’ Thing” was the other big hit off the record and to me encapsulates the ELO sound. This isn’t a Beatles ripoff but is what ELO was all about, great pop songs propelled by a string section. These orchestral flourishes that answer the refrain work just as well as a guitar riff or horn interlude. And of course, with most of ELO’s hits, once it gets in your head it’s won’t leave.
Lost amid the classic singles is the opening track, “Tightrope.” Sure, it may sound dated, with a prominent ‘70s keyboard sound, but that quickly give way to a chugging guitar riff and a propelling chorus. “So Fine” is another underrated album track, starting as an acoustic powered ballad but seguing into an extended percussion/synthesizer/string jam. “
Thankfully, ELO has seen a gradual remastering of its catalogue in recent years. A Jeff Lynne album is almost guaranteed to have a sparkling production, but I’ve always thought the CD version of some ELO albums lacked punch. A New World Record is no longer such a record. The new remaster sparkles, the intricate details of songs like “Tightrope” really standing out. Unfortunately, the bonus tracks are definitely lacking. Only one track is truly new; the rest are rough mixes and backing tracks. It’s hard to believe that there wasn’t more material to be discovered in the vaults. Still, the new track “Surrender” is slightly underproduced but has a killer hook and is a welcome addition.
This album propelled Electric Light Orchestra to new heights, which wouldn’t last terribly long. Their follow up album Out Of The Blue was a bloated double album and the only really good single after 1977 was “Don’t Bring Me Down.” In hindsight, it’s a shame ELO has faded from view, because when it comes down to it ELO could craft pop as good as the best.