I really need to take exception to the ongoing notion that in 1977 punk unceremoniously barged in and supplanted the old guard bands like Tull, Yes, ELO and all the others. True, punk made a noticeable impression in London and New York and possibly L.A. But the US at large missed out on the entire punk wave of '77 and '78. Some college radio stations played it but certainly precious few (if any) US mainstream radio stations dared play Ramones, Sex Pistols, et.al. The false refrain that punk ruled and disposed of album rock in 1977 is getting tired, repeated ad nauseam by both noted music journalists on AMG and Rolling Stone (who ought to know better) and do-it-yourself-ers on Amazon and elsewhere. I guess they feel they are hip and "in the know" when citing even false information. Unbeknownst to many, there exists a considerable world outside of London and New York. A world that functioned just fine without the edict stating that punk will turn your music world upside down. Sure, most large cities had a burgeoning punk movement but it didn't happen simultaneously (in 1977). It took a couple of years to germinate and grow and didn't have a measurable impact on the pop music of the time in the US. Just look at the reprehensible music charts of the time. Punk simply wasn't there. I wish otherwise. Please don't cite Elvis Costello or Blondie. Elvis was no punk; an acerbic, gifted, new voice in the rock/singer-songwriter mold but certainly not a punk. If Blondie were punks then they were the lamest of all. Most US music fans in 1977 didn't even know what punk was and maybe could name one or two bands. There just wasn't this purported onslaught of punk rock in the US as urban legend tells us. Disco was the real culprit here in the US. Many top rock artists suffered or fell due to the preponderance of disco in the pop and sales charts and their flawed notion that they must therefore forfeit integrity and alter their sound accordingly.
ELO was one of the few groups that used it artistically and to their advantage. While they weren't a full-fledged disco band Jeff Lynne certainly was influenced by this change in the musical landscape. As early as 1975 he abandoned much of the formula that made ELDORADO such a delightful and groundbreaking album in favor of a more pop and, yes, disco-flavored sound. I don't hold this release (OUT OF THE BLUE) as near and dear as many ELO fans. The AM and FM hits were numerous and relentless. I didn't get this CD to hear 'Turn to Stone,' 'It's Over,' 'Sweet Talking Woman,' 'Night in the City,' 'Birmingham Blues' or 'Mr. Blue Sky' even though I find a couple of those quite tolerable today. With 17 tracks I'd hoped that there were a few gems that were neglected due to the constant hammering of the hits back in the late 70s. I never owned this album until now but I certainly heard it many times on 8-track in Nova SS and Trans-Am autos as well as on LP at house parties and college dorms in those days.
My hunch proved right. There are many other nice pieces on this album. The first one that jumps out at my is 'Jungle' with it's propulsive rhythm and irresistible melody. The nonsensical refrain is a bit silly but so what. Remember Doo-Wop, anyone? 'Standing in the Rain' is a tasty medium tempo rocker in the classic ELO mold, once the lengthy intro expires. The slow tempo 'Big Wheels' is another melodic winner replete with the swirling string section synonymous with ELO. 'Summer and Lightening' and 'Sweet is the Night' are two more enjoyable album tracks. Actually, this entire album is quite nice, hits or otherwise. I didn't buy it for the hits and am pleased to say that this album would hold its own as a 12 track album, not including any of the best-known songs.
And that is the criteria for a truly solid album. Take away the hits and what's left?