Electric Light Orchestra – ELO II (Remaster)

Electric Light Orchestra - ELO IIElectric Light Orchestra - ELO IIOriginally devised as a band that would “pick up where the ‘Beatles’ I Am The Walrus’ left off,” the Electric Light Orchestra was well on its way to carving out its own admittedly unconventional niche when the band’s leadership was split down the middle. Stunned by the sudden defection of founding member Roy Wood, Jeff Lynne and company regrouped, brought in a few more players, and kept the band’s original mandate – a rock group with its own live string section – intact. The result, in 1972, was two vinyl sides of beauty running the gamut from heavy metal to near-classical rock to ballads. Now, some 31 years later, the result is two full-length CDs of that same beauty and then some.

The original album – only five songs in all, but some of them epic-length – is a wonder to hear in this newly remastered edition, and the early takes of songs like “Ma-Ma-Ma Belle” and “Dreaming Of 4000” (intended for the group’s third album) are revealing looks at those tunes’ evolution. But the real treat here is a handful of songs we’d never heard before, with the jewel in that particular crown being “Everybody’s Born To Die”, a very surprisingly Dylan-esque number that makes one think that Jeff Lynne listened to “Like A Rolling Stone” for inspiration (both musical and lyrical) and then concocted his own uniquely ELO-ified electric folk song. The quality of the recording is such that it sounds like it could’ve been recorded yesterday, and despite it being a Dylan pastiche, it’s at least a good Dylan pastiche. It’s also a marvel to hear in a raw, un-adorned form; had it progressed far enough to be included on ELO II or On The Third Day, chances are the vocals would’ve been echoed, double-tracked, or otherwise messed with. Here we get to hear the raw power of Jeff Lynne belting this song out with no electronic trickery.

I was less enthralled with the three numbers featuring former Move lead singer Carl Wayne on vocals. With the ELO rhythm section of Lynne, Bev Bevan, Mike de Albuquerque and Richard Tandy backing him, Wayne croons three Lynne originals (including a string-free cover of “Mama”). Conflicting with earlier news that Lynne had attempted to recruit Wayne to replace Roy Wood in ELO, the liner notes explain that manager Don Arden hooked Wayne up with Lynne in an attempt to break Wayne’s “cabaret crooning” image to relaunch his stalled rock career. Even if that’s the case, it wasn’t much of a mold-breaker – it really comes across in the style of early 70s Christian rock more than anything. If Carl Wayne needed a direction, I much preferred the hard-psychedelic-rock re-interpretations of several standards on the latter half of the Move’s Shazam, but it’s still interesting to hear what else the members of ELO (and the Move) were doing on the side.

I also have to admit to enjoying the wealth of material in the two liner notes booklets: we finally have printed lyrics for this album, and the press reviews from the time of the album’s release are insightful and hilarious. John Peel’s review of the “Roll Over Beethoven” single in particular cracks me up for two passages: “The strings, rocking like bitches, play sort of ghost-train evil” and “If it is not a number one, I shall come among you with a whip.” Now that’s a music review! I’ll make sure to use the latter of these two memorable phrases in a future review, and perhaps the first if the opportunity should present itself.

rating: 4 out of 4Sadly, this is probably the last of the ELO remastered albums, due to budget constraints and copyright issues still persisting from the band’s early switches from one label to another, but even so, what a way to go out.

I don’t suppose walking among the Sony Music brass with a whip would help to resurrect the reissues, would it?

Order this CD

    Disc one:

  1. In Old England Town (Boogie No. 2) (6:57)
  2. Momma… (7:00)
  3. Roll Over Beethoven (7:04)
  4. From The Sun To The World (Boogie No. 1) (8:18)
  5. Kuiama (11:21)
  6. Showdown (4:11)
  7. In Old England Town (Instrumental) (2:44)
  8. Baby I Apologise (3:43)
  9. Auntie (Ma Ma Ma Belle, take 1) (1:19)
  10. Auntie (Ma Ma Ma Belle, take 2) (4:03)
  11. Mambo (Dreaming Of 4000, take 1) (3:03)
  12. Everyone’s Born To Die (4:40)
  13. Roll Over Beethoven (take 1) (8:16)
    Disc two:

  1. Brian Matthew introduces ELO (0:22)
  2. From The Sun To The World (Boogie No. 1 – BBC Sessions) (7:26)
  3. Momma (BBC Sessions) (6:57)
  4. Roll Over Beethoven (single version) (4:36)
  5. Showdown (take 1) (4:18)
  6. Your World (with Carl Wayne – take 2) (4:55)
  7. Get A Hold Of Myself (with Carl Wayne – take 2) (4:43)
  8. Mama (with Carl Wayne – take 1) (4:59)
  9. Wilf’s Solo (instrumental) (3:40)
  10. Roll Over Beethoven (BBC Sessions) (7:40)

Released by: EMI/Harvest
Release date: 2003
Disc one total running time: 74:41
Disc two total running time: 49:38

Electric Light Orchestra – Electric Light Orchestra II

Electric Light Orchestra - Electric Light Orchestra IIThis is the album from which “Roll Over Beethoven” sprang, all eight minutes of it, and that’s not even the best reason to pick this one up. The most off-putting thing about ELO’s second album – and the first without co-founder Roy Wood, who walked out of the band after repeated arguments with Jeff Lynne over who was in charge – is the sheer length of every number. At eight minutes, “Roll Over Beethoven” is the third-shortest number on ELO II. “In Old England Town”, the hard-rocking opening piece, clocks in at just under seven minutes, and the longest song, “Kuiama”, runs a little over eleven. All of them are worth a listen, though the band’s studio technique still depended on grungy multiple overdubs of two cellos and a violin to achieve ELO’s titular orchestral 4 out of 4 starsobligations, and overall Lynne rocks harder on the first three albums than he does later in the 70s. Highly recommended for the bittersweet “Mama”, the boisterous “From The Sun To The World”, and the very ambitious musical arrangement – if not the anti-war lyrics – of “Kuiama”.

    Order this CD in the Store

  1. In Old England Town – Boogie #2 (6:54)
  2. Mama (7:03)
  3. Roll Over Beethoven (8:10)
  4. From The Sun To The World – Boogie #1 (8:22)
  5. Kuiama (11:19)

Released by: Jet
Release date: 1972
Total running time: 41:48

Moody Blues – Seventh Sojourn

Moody Blues - Seventh SojournFrom the year of my birth springs this, one of my favorite slices of Moody Blues that there is. I’ve always felt that the Moody Blues’ music is bursting with an altruistic, innocent, pure, platonic love that is unmatched by anything else I’ve ever heard, not even by the Beatles. The Fab Four’s simplest and sweetest love songs still implied the presence of some adolscent hormones, but the Moodies have captured an emotion in their work that reveals their 1960s roots. I think they call it agape love. Concern, compassion, hope and nostalgia flow out of every song, especially “New Horizons”, a ballad that’s almost enough to convince even the most stalwart career bachelor to get married, settle down and start a family (!). I’m usually 4 out of 4not one to listen to music that is blandly uplifting – I’m not a fan of the Pollyanna attitude. But the Moody Blues’ message – that things will be all right if we all work to make them that way – is what makes them a staple in my musical diet. This and Days of Future Passed are their best in my book, hands-down.

Order this CD

  1. Lost in a Lost World (4:45)
  2. New Horizons (5:11)
  3. For My Lady (3:57)
  4. Isn’t Life Strange (6:00)
  5. You and Me (4:20)
  6. The Land of Make-Believe (4:51)
  7. When You’re a Free Man (6:05)
  8. I’m Just a Singer in a Rock and Roll Band (4:22)

Released by: Threshold
Release date: 1972
Total running time: 39:31