20 February 2007

So sad if that's the way it's over

Efficiency of space was always one of the strengths of the Electric Light Orchestra. The group's best album, 1976's "A New World Record," clocks in at around 36 minutes, and the song "Rockaria!" alone tells an epic (and funny) love story in just 3 minutes and 12 seconds.

So the follow-up record, "Out of the Blue," is a mixed bag. Or, I should say "records." Plural. The double album suffers from more sprawl than Columbus Park Crossing. Plus, by the time of the recording, disco clearly started making its stamp on the sound, particularly with lead-off cut "Turn To Stone."

It may seem strange, then, to make a case for this album as an essential piece -- even as today it's reissued in a (gulp) 30th anniversary edition.

But make the case I will. And I can explain why in three words: "Sweet Talkin' Woman," which is unquestionably ELO's finest, most enduring song. And sure, that cut alone could be had for a buck off of a download service, but there's also "Mr. Blue Sky," "Sweet Is the Night," "Wild West Hero," and "Birmingham Blues." So while it's one of the band's most uneven albums, it's still a great one.

(Oh, and while I'm thinking music, fans of alt-country rockers The Silos should know that they've got a new record out today. Read this for details on the record and an ATL show...)


TybeeDawg said...

I graddy-ated high school in 1977, so ELO was one of those bands that we all listened to at the time.

Hard to believe that scarcely 3 or 4 years later, I'd discover REM, Pylon, Jason and the Scorchers and Love Tractor, not to mention the Clash, Buzzcocks, PIL, U2, and Gang of Four.

Some of Jeff Lynne's nods to the Beatles in ELO still sound interesting today, but I don't think I'll be rushing out to buy a copy.

Brad Barnes said...

"A New World Record" is the one to buy if you're feeling nostalgiac. It's the one that has "Do Ya," "Telephone Line" and "Livin' Thing" on it, but those are actually the lesser tracks. If all prog-rock could get in and out in 3-1/2 minutes like ELO could, I would've gotten into a lot more of it.

But yeah, you gotta like uber-processed vocals, men singing really high harmony, and '70s production aesthetics to dig the ELO. They're my guilty pleasure band.