A New World Record (1976)


 
1. Tightrope 2. Telephone Line 3. Rockaria! 4. Mission (A New World Record) 5. So Fine 6. Livin' Thing 7. Above the Cloud 8. Do Ya 9. Shangri-La

 

This is the band at its peak. From start to finish, the group manages to deliver one knockout punch after another. Like its predecessor, they continue with basically the same formula that had given them their success as of at late. Unlike its predecessor, this album takes a couple of risky chances in the experimentation department that at first seem a bit baffling, but the songs do tend to grow on you in a good way after awhile.

E.L.O. was always one of those bands that never seemed to have a solid lineup. You had Jeff Lynne who spearheaded the project (he wrote and produced basically all of their songs), you had the only other holdover from The Move in drummer Bev Bevan, and keyboardist Richard Tandy was also present during most of the band's history. After that, the lineup was always a bit shaky, with the cello and violin players seemingly switching out faster than you could count. For a couple of years in the mid seventies, they actually seemed to have a bit of a stable lineup. Not that this necessarily had any sustaining influence on the finished project - after all, you have to imagine that once "they" were in the studio making records that Jeff Lynne was calling all of the shots anyway.

Back to the album. Well this was the album that featured probably their best, biggest song Telephone Line. As beautiful and timeless as that classic is, you have to automatically assume that anything else on the album, no matter how subpar, would still make it a great album. The good news is their really isn't anything subpar. Sure, they get a little goofy with Rockaria! which is the band rocking out (with strings) as a homage to some of the great classical composers. Mission is a little bit pretentious, with its futuristic themes allowing Jeff Lynne to go crazy in the studio with all of the special effect buttons. These may not add to the overall quality, but they don't take anything away either.

Two other incredible pieces featured here are the album's overlooked opener Tightrope (which never did much radio-wise, but managed to find its way into most of their live shows) and the awe-inspiring Living Thing, which, like Telephone Line everyone knows and loves. They even manage to resurrect an old song from The Move days called Do Ya which rocks harder than anything on the album, yet still manages to sound authentic enough to be on an E.L.O. album. Above the Clouds is a nice little added piece that clocks in at just a little bit more than two minutes. That's bassist Kelly Groucutt on vocals, and he doesn't disappoint. Come to think of it, in concert, Kelly sang the soprano intro to Rockaria! as well. I'm not sure if he does it here as well, but he's still a great, underrated singer. The last song Shangra-La is a wonderful, sort of sad, closing song that features the orchestra in full force. It manages to include one of the worst lyrics in the band's history - "My Shangra-La has gone away/Faded like the Beatles on 'Hey Jude"...". The song is so good, that you don't mind it, however.

They would never quite match this feat song for song again. Fortunately they still had some life, and still some great songs in them, but it can be well argued that this album is the best of the best of their solid career.

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