Review Summary: This is an album no one should be without.
The Electric Light Orchestra of 1976 consists of:
Jeff Lynne - Lead Vocals, Lead Guitars
Bev Bevan - Percussion/Drums
Richard Tandy - Keyboards, Secondary Guitar
Kelly Groucutt - Bass, Backing Vocals
Mik Kaminski - Violin
Hugh McDowell - Cello
Melvyn Gale - Cello
This album garnered fame from all around the world (a fun pun), receiving glorious approval from fans, critics, and musicians alike, and debuting in the top 10 of every country it was released. If that's not enough to get your attention then another notable fact is that the band's manager was Sharon Osborne's father. Their lead singer Jeff Lynne was often referred to as the 5th Beatle, and in less than a year, A New World Record
sold more than 5 million around the globe. This is 1976 we are talking about. 5 million. That's damn impressive for a rock n' roll-orchestra to boast when bands like Led Zeppelin and the Rolling Stones were dominating ticket sales.
It's entertaining, soulful and everyone usually has the reaction "Oh I always wondered what that song was called." After listening to it you won't even care what your friends think of you. It's nutty to explain it, but it is a perfect example of self-indulging pop. The record shines and its obvious that Jeff Lynne sure grabs the band by the gonads here. They are all wonderfully in sync with each other on this album, and the songwriting is extraordinary and majestical, crafting this album into an instant classic.
A New World Record
starts off, and "Tightrope" begins with a UFO invasion of sounds, the haunting notes of a thriller movie roll with the chilling deep bass lines, and out of nowhere the song turns into an upbeat “don’t bring me down”kind of love song. The vocals are on key, and Richard Tandy’s backup falsetto and are actually very pleasant to the atmosphere. The strings fit into the song in a very unimaginable way, but it works and is one of the cleverest pop songs I’ve ever heard. As Tightrope dies down into oblivion, the album takes another interesting ‘spin’ into the next song “Telephone Line”. It’s a lovely ballad that’s as memorable as those arena songs you hear at a basketball game, but in a mellow manner. It retains the moody blues feeling and the lyrics are unforgettable. The “do-wahs” and ELO’s obsession with dark-blue nights are also very apparent, but the melody is orgasmic. If you don’t listen to any other song by them, listen to this. With the end of all that beauty, I was thrown off by the opera bit at the beginning of "Rockaria!", but apparently the “oops!” by the opera singer was left in on purpose. This song quickly changed my mind about Opera rock. This is the classic rocker of the album. “Come on over, you got nothin’ to lose!” The song is energetic, and Lynne’s vocals are great.
Track 4: Mission (A New World Record). This is as weird as a standard rock song can get. Not only creepier than the first song's intro, but it creeps along and as you listen, your interest grows… The synthesizer is a real hook in this song, but as it transitions into the chorus the concept turns into some kind of an orchestral-funk-disco-mix jam session? What? As weird as it sounds, it draws you back into the song even after a single listen and its melancholy talk of “Who are you and who am I?” is a fun kind of moodiness to hear in a song. Strangely enough, the blues guitar in the background of the song are melded well with the melody and give this song quite an interesting amount to offer to the listener. The Ooh La Ooh Lala Ooh's continue in the next song titled “So Fine”. ELO starts us back up after the storm to another fantastic rush of flavor. The strings are more of a backing track and carry the song to a wonderful amount. The song later breaks down into a creative percussion ensemble by the synthesizer and drummer and builds up into the ending of another wonderful tune. As the track “So Fine” melts into a different chord, the strings take over for a unique blend of seasonings for the album. The song “Livin’ Thing” takes over with its Caribbean-like mix of gliding vocals. This song had a lot of controversy upon release and play on the radio. Some felt the song was a pro-life stand up, others explained it was just a simple song about love.
And you, and your sweet desire,
You took me, higher and higher
It's a livin' thing,
It's a terrible thing to lose
It's a given thing
What a terrible thing to lose.
Although Jeff never identifies what “It” is, the song still remains a classic over the years despite the controversy, and often appears on Top 100 lists of the 70's. It's a major guilty pleasure and a really infectious single. The next track “Above the Clouds” is the alternative intermission section of the album. But don’t call it filler, this song uses some intriguing sounds from the early 1900’s along with some more UFO sounds, that actually fit with the song yet again! A few areas of this song seem out of tune, but it still sounds cool. It’s a basis for what’s to come…
“I’m saying… do ya do ya want my love”
“Do Ya” This song picks back up the old sound of Jeff Lynne and Bev Bevan's old band, The Move. The themes of love and the overall bliss of the song make this an excellent radio rock model. This is one of the best early rock songs ELO has to offer without a barage of violins, and it’s actually a cover from when Jeff Lynne and Bev Bevan had their old band of "The Move". All I can say is, with the electric flow of rock, this song is the Electric Light Orchestra’s illustration of brilliance. Just when the album couldn’t get any better, then next song seems to be instantly halted by an interesting flow of vibes… The mood is darker again and the song is slow and melancholy in a similar fashion to the title track, although without the nuisances of UFO noises and misplaced blues jams every 10 seconds. This song picks up even more, with a beautiful light guitar solo and a lovely melody. It may not be an instant hit, but this song unquestionably grows on you the more you listen to it. And just as the song dies down, the mood is brought into a perfect opposite harmony as the way it started. The moving synthesizer pushes everything you just heard onto the album into a wonderful climax that’s as moving as real life depression. It’s a soaring ending of epic proportions. These guys knew how to play; their music is not only intense, but blissful. Every note is hit with a wonderful strength as if you were watching them live.