Record #329: Electric Light Orchestra – Olé ELO (1976)

ole elo

As a rule, I usually regard greatest hits compilations as insincere cash grabs by the Suits, entry-level, contextless chop jobs for listeners who can’t be bothered to delve into a band’s actual records, or both.

But Olé ELO has more interesting origins.

As interest in Jeff Lynne’s group began to gain steam with the success of their huge hit Face the Music, United Artists Records compiled a retrospective of their past albums to give to radio stations. These non-retail compilations soon began circulating in the underground with such frequency that UAR had a commercial release.

As is fitting for its initial purpose, this is a little more educational than most compilations. Each track is given a short blurb on the record sleeve explaining its significance in the ELO catalogue.

And being that we’re talking about songs by Electric Light Orchestra, of course the music is great. The tracks are arranged chronologically, moving the album from hugely ambitious prog pop on side one to concise monster pop hits on side two. “10538 Overture,” with its “I Am the Walrus Vibe,” instantly exposes Jeff Lynne’s goal to continue what the Beatles had started by combining classical orchestration with modern rock and roll. And to that end, their eight minute reinterpration of Chuck Berry’s “Roll Over Beethoven” is a must for a collection like this.

As a big ELO fan myself, I’ve spent most of time with the albums following this compilation. As such, I enjoy this record as a good digest of everything I’ve yet to get into. And if it’s anything like the eleven minute epic “Kuiama,” I have some listening to do.

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