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Electric Light Orchestra - A New World Record CD (album) cover


Electric Light Orchestra


Crossover Prog

3.40 | 330 ratings

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Prog Folk Researcher
3 stars ELO released eight studio albums in the 70s, and with the exception of El Dorado each of them showed progressive tendencies alright – each was progressively closer to being a full-blown disco-pop album, culminating with the coup de grāce Discovery to close out both the decade, and effectively the career of the band. There were a few more albums in the 80s, but they were of no real consequence either in terms of progressive music or of the vitality of the band (although I’ll admit to kind of liking 1981’s Time).

A New World Record was the last release that showed any semblance of an artistic work, as opposed to a purely commercial venture. The album is pretty evenly split into two groups: pop songs with modestly progressive arrangements (“Tightrope”, “Mission”, “Above the Clouds”, “Shangri-la”), and pop songs just meant to be pop songs (“Telephone Line”, “Rockaria!”, “So Fine”, “Livin’ Thing”, and “Do Ya”). “Shangri-la” gets a bonus point for use of pseudo-operatic vocals accompanying some pretty decent string arrangements.

This record is actually a bit more depressing than most casual listeners probably realize. “Tightrope” for example is a sad cry of despair from a guy who seems to be overwhelmed with the pressures and complexities of life, begging to be thrown a lifeline by those who are managing to stay atop the tightrope of life from which he has fallen. “Telephone Line” is the wallowing lament of a lonely person clinging to a telephone and working through a conversation of reconciliation while listening to the ring…. ring….. ring… in the earpiece. This wasn’t an original theme in the 70s by any means. Dr. Hook had “Sylvia’s Mother”; Jim Croce did “Operator”; and of course the king of phone calls gone bad – “Beth” by Kiss.

“Mission (A New World Record)” paints a rather bleak view by an interstellar mercy mission to the planet Earth:

“On a dirty worn-out sidewalk sits a mother with a baby, in her veil of tears she sees no rainbow. And someone’s singing from a window – in the Mission of the Sacred Heart”.

Even “Livin’ Thing”, with its peppy melody and upbeat falsetto vocals, carries a sad message of unrequited love (or maybe just lust):

“And you, and your sweet desire, you took me, higher and higher. It’s a livin’ thing, it’s a terrible thing to lose… making believe - this is what you conceived on your worst day. Moving in line then you’ll look back in time, to your first day - I’m taking a dive”.

Things don’t get much better toward the end. This is a well-known album and a favorite for many of us who came of age during the mid-70s. It’s full of decent music that reflects the times, but not a progressive classic by any means. Taken on its own merits though, this is a good album, although I suppose not essential. But when scrutinized carefully with the distance of time, this is also a somewhat bitter lament by Jeff Lynne about longing, but more importantly, about change.

“My Shangri-la has gone away, faded like the Beatles on ‘Hey Jude’”.


ClemofNazareth | 3/5 |


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