Electric Light Orchestra: ELO II (Remaster)
In 1973, ELO II found The Electric Light Orchestra moving away from the psychedelic influences and "Eleanor Rigby" strings of No Answer for a more overtly symphonic sound. In fact, ELO II was about as adventurous and progressive as the band would become (although Eldorado from 1974 comes close). In some ways, this early phase is often overlooked because one can hear the band still finding their identity and Jeff Lynne's polished production was not in place yet. But ELO II holds a special place in my heart and is only edged out by Eldorado as my favorite album, precisely because the band are experimenting with some very expansive and diverse material.
Opening with menacing cellos and violins, "In Old England Town (Boogie No. 2)" calls early King Crimson to mind. Jeff Lynne's distorted vocals are straight out of "21st Century Schizoid Man". "Mama" is one of two ballads, featuring lilting strings and some nice Moog synthesizer from Richard Tandy. "Roll Over Beethoven" is the hit single of the album and although the new remaster replaces the full length album version with a slightly edited take (why?), the track is still seven plus minutes and is a nice showcase for Jeff Lynne's 50s rock and roll guitar pastiche. "From the Sun to the World (Boogie #1)" is full tilt symphonic rock with great Moog and piano from Tandy. In my opinion, this is the great, unheralded ELO track! "Kuiama" is an 11-minute antiwar statement that closes the album proper in grand style. Lynne's poignant lyrics are the focal point of the piece while the musical arrangement is fairly simple but entirely appropriate for the song. The remaster contains four bonus tracks, including a short instrumental take of "In Old England Town", which is kind of interesting because a synthesizer is used in place of Jeff Lynne's vocal melody. "Baby I Apologize" is a rough demo outtake and a nice addition but not something I would listen to often. The same goes for the two alternate mixes of "In Old England Town" and "Roll Over Beethoven": nice to hear them once, but I never feel the need to listen to remixes.
The new remaster of ELO II has caused a bit of a stir over some Internet forums because of the edited "Roll Over Beethoven"; apparently, Jeff Lynne approved this decision, as he wasn't happy with the uncut version. Perhaps not the wisest choice for diehards, but I suppose it's his band and for now, we'll have to live with that choice. Although ELO II was never the best sounding album ever recorded, the remaster is pretty good. The packaging is nice and features full lyrics, a brief essay from Jeff Lynne and some historical liner notes as well. If you're at all curious what The Electric Light Orchestra sounded like before going in a more pop direction, check out ELO II. It's a classic.
- In Old England Town (Boogie No. 2)
- Roll Over Beethoven
- From the Sun to the World (Boogie No. 1)
Remaster Bonus Tracks
- In Old England Town (Instrumental)
- Baby I Apologize
- In Old England Town (Take 1 alternate mix)
- Roll Over Beethoven (Take 1 alternate mix)
Added: April 13th 2006
Reviewer: Steve Pettengill
Related Link: Official Sony ELO Web Page
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|Electric Light Orchestra: ELO II (Remaster)
Posted by Pete Pardo, SoT Staff Writer on 2006-04-13 07:06:11
With the opening ominous cello & violin passages on "In Old England Town (Boogie No.2)", it's quickly obvious to casual fans that ELO II is no Discovery or Out of the Blue. While those albums are representative of the Electric Light Orchestra's forays into orchestral, synthesized pop rock, earlier releases like No Answer and ELO II, the bands first two, were basically an extension of The Move, Jeff Lynne and Roy Wood's previous band. By the time of 1973, Wood had split the band, which left Lynne to mold the group in his image, which was a mix of classical orchestrations, keyboard oriented prog-rock, and Beatles influenced pop.
For this album, Lynne, who plays guitar, Moog, Harmonium, and sings, is joined by Richard Tandy on keyboards, Bev Bevan on drums, Michael De Albuguerque on bass, Wilt Gibson in violin, and the cello team of Colin Walker & Mike Edwards. This ensemble put together some really fresh sounds here, much of the music being darker than what the band would later venture into. After the commanding and serious sounds heard on the progressive sounding "In Old England Town (Boogie No.2)", which features plenty of strings, keyboards, and guitars (and a fairly heavy song to boot!), the band settles into the melancholy pop of "Mama...", a song that sees the strings and keyboards set a somber tone for Lynne's rich vocals. Most will remember the rock classic "Roll Over Beethoven", originally written and recorded by Chuck Berry, but given a royal treatment by the band here that still remains an all-time favorite song of many fans. Mixing classical and early rock 'n' roll never sounded so good, with the cellos and violin mixing with Tandy's piano and Lynne's searing guitar work, supported by a hot rhythm section of Bevan and De Albuguerque. The added Moog touches from Tandy also add a nice prog-rock feel to this tune. "From the Sun to the World (Boogie No. 1)" is another progressive piece, this one kicked off with some great Moog and piano passages before the vocals and strings come in for some majestic and yearning sounds. This one contains some impressive lead work on the piano and violin. The more rock based "Kulama" closes the regular part of the CD in epic fashion at over 11-minutes long. This one has some rootsy guitar work from Lynne and plenty of strings, overall a pretty adventurous piece, with plenty of solos from the members and nice hooks.
You get four bonus tracks here, mostly alternate takes and session outtakes, including an interesting instrumental version of "In Old England Town" with lead Moog taking over for the vocals, plus the poppy "Baby I Apologize". All are an interesting listen and add to the historical nature of this remaster. The packaging is a real plus, with lyrics, photographs, and expanded sleeve notes from Rob Caiger. And the sound, while not the best I have ever heard on a remaster, is pretty damn good, certainly better than my original CD copy that I have had for many years. Overall, a worthwhile purchase for ELO fans.
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