By October 1976 Electric Light Orchestra had managed to morph themselves into a slick prog-pop group, scoring hit singles the world over and releasing a string of increasingly impressive albums. Not only that, but band leader Jeff Lynne was merrily picking up influences from progressive rock, Beatlesque pop and even elements of disco, all of which could be heard at various points on the best ELO album to date, the punchy A New World Record.
Gone were the ponderous epics that had blighted their early career, song-suites were temporarily ignored in favour of creating the ELO album with the most pop-appeal, in their place were nine concise and well produced pop-rock tunes. A New World Record contains no less than four singles, “Telephone Line”, “Livin’ Thing”, the marvelously chaotic “Rockaria” and the riff-driven “Do Ya”. Add to these four tracks a closing track like “Shangri-la” and you have the makings of a fine album. That doesn’t mean the other numbers are merely filler either, as opener “Tightrope” effectively sounds like Lynne and his bandmates finally landing on planet pop and deciding that they liked and “Mission (A World Record)” is a curiously fulfilling slab of pop-prog.
There’s not many criticisms you could genuinely level at A New World Record. Perhaps it didn’t rock particularly hard, but it had been obvious for years that Lynne’s interest had been in sophisticated pop rather than head-s down guitar rifer. That’s not to say that ELO were incapable of rifer, indeed their reworking of “Do Ya” by Lynne’s previous band, The Move, demonstrates that they cold do it when they wanted to, they just didn’t want to very often. Lynne was more about the hook than the riff, and that’s not something to criticise someone for. More worrying is Lynne’s frothing obsession with The Beatles, as he clumsily name drops them as frequently as possible. It’s something that that still rings of fanboy sycophancy today, and it took me years to accept that this was an inevitable part of who Lynne was.
Ultimately you can’t take away from the fact that A New World Record pushed Lynne and the rest of ELO to international success. In retrospect it’s their most accessible album, demonstrating everything that their fans loved about them, ad its heartwarming to realise that fry years later, they are finally receiving the kudos they always deserved. If you’re looking for a concise and approachable album with which to start your Electric Light Orchestra collection, then you can do far worse than pick up A New World Record.