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Electric Light Orchestra - Electric Light Orchestra II CD (album) cover

ELECTRIC LIGHT ORCHESTRA II

Electric Light Orchestra

 

Crossover Prog

3.54 | 151 ratings

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ClemofNazareth
Special Collaborator
Prog Folk Researcher
3 stars The life of this album is actually more interesting than the original release. This was first released with a pretty cheesy cover in Britain in 1972, then followed up with an American and Australia/New Zealand release that had one song renamed, another remixed, and a better-looking cover. A few years later this was combined with their debut album and released as a sort of boxed-set in Holland, and was remastered and released on CD in 1990. Another CD version came out last year with three different takes of “In Old England Town”, two of “Roll Over Beethoven” (neither of which is the same as the best and original version), and an outtake version of a goofy “Baby I Apologise”. There are probably other versions floating around as well, but you get the idea.

This was the follow-up to ‘No Answer’, and the first following Roy Wood’s departure to form Wizzard. Jeff Lynne wastes no time in remaking the band in his image of a Beatles tribute troupe, although there are plenty of remnants both of the first incarnation of the band, and of the Move’s sound from the sixties. Most are found in the still-present strings (mostly cello), heavy bass, and simple drum beats, but all these tracks are much longer and more developed instrumentally than most of what the Move ever did.

The opening “In Old England Town” has pleasant arrangements but appalling engineering. Rumor has it Wood contributed this track before his departure, and it shows. This is very much in the vein of “Battle of Marston Moor” from the first album, which is to say a pseudo- orchestral and somewhat disjointed number that has Wood’s signature written all over it.

Next up is “Mama”, or “Moma” or “Momma”, depending on which version of the album you’re listening to. This is almost a ballad, very much a Lynne composition, and quite beautiful, although it doesn’t age all that well and sounds rather dated today.

The highlight of the whole album is the energetic and expansive “Roll Over Beethoven”, which sounded old-fashioned even when it was released but showcases Lynne’s distinctive vocals and guitar, great cello from newcomers Mike Edwards and Colin Walker, and plenty of ostentatious instrumentation. This isn’t progressive music by any means, but it sure is fun to listen to. The original eight-minute plus version is by far the best, but later versions of this album featured a slightly trimmed rendition with some of the instrumentals cut out, and there was a later radio edit that is much shorter and frankly sounds unfinished.

The back side of the vinyl version leads off with “From the Sun to the World”, which blends both the early ‘light orchestra’ version of the band with the more pop-oriented vocal sounds and simple tempos that Lynne would favor on his more popular later releases. There is a lot of the sound of ‘Face the Music’ on this tune, and the piano and Wilf Gibson’s violin work are both excellent, and the two of them combine for a long instrumental passage that alone is almost worth the price of admission, and previews some of the same sounds that would reappear on ‘Out of the Blue’.

The vinyl version closes with the eleven-minute plus “Kuiama”, a sometimes unfocused piece of work that nevertheless features some of the best drumming and violin that ELO would ever record. This is one of the more progressive bits of music the band did before turning into an intergalactic hit machine, and unfortunately tends to get overlooked by those later poppish hits.

One last comment on the original vinyl release: I have no idea why Lynne felt the need to release this in a gatefold cover, as the inside jacket is rather bland, adds very little to the overall presentation, and must have set the label on edge for the additional cost it incurred. Weird.

Anyway, I really like this album’s ability to sound both simple and complex at the same time, and Lynne’s uncanny ability to make strings and long, classically-influenced arrangements sound like pop music. That’s a talent. This isn’t a masterpiece, but it sure makes a nice addition to just about anyone’s collection, so three stars doesn’t seem out of line.

peace

ClemofNazareth | 3/5 |

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