Pop Culture Gadabout
Friday, November 24, 2006
      ( 11/24/2006 08:40:00 AM ) Bill S.  

"I THOUGHT I SAW THE MAYOR THERE, BUT I WASN'T REALLY SURE" – Much like it recently did with Cheap Trick, after years of sitting on its corporate rock ass, Sony Records has finally issued remastered versions of the bulk of its Electric Light Orchestra catalog. Now, it's long been fashionable to pooh-pooh poor ol' ELO (heck, Randy Newman once wrote a song mocking 'em) – and, to be sure, any band that willingly allowed themselves to be a part of the roller disco movie musical Xanadu deserves its share of hard mocks. But at their best, they were a mighty pop-rock unit with a string of great singles to their credit.

To my ears, the band's peak came in the middle of its Jeff Lynne-led era (the first ELO disc was overseen by the quirky Roy Wood) with Face the Music and A New World Record. Picked up a remastered copy of the latter this week, and was happy to hear that it still held up to my estimation. The hit singles – "Livin' Thing," "Telephone Line" and "Rockaria!" – are all great (on most days, that third would classify as my favorite ELO song), but most of the remaining tracks are equally enjoyable. Lynne (and, to be fair, Wood, too) took the orchestral pretensions of prog rockers like Emerson, Lake and Palmer and made 'em enjoyable in ways that probably never would've even occurred to ELP. What a difference one letter makes . . .

As with so many remastered sets, Record concludes with a largely disposable set of bonus tracks (four of which are "instrumental Early Rough Mix"es of cuts on the album.) The one exception: "Surrender," which is not to be confused with the Cheap Trick classic, but is instead a previously unfinished track that was recently completed by Lynn and is currently being released as an iTunes download. Nice Motown-y rhythm on that 'un, so don't skip it if you're playing the new disc and you know you've reached the end of the original elpee . . .
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Pop cultural criticism - plus the occasional egocentric socio/political commentary by Bill Sherman (popculturegadabout AT yahoo.com).

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