ELO Part II – Moment Of Truth

Electric Light Orchestra Part Two - Moment Of TruthPerhaps I’m always looking at ELO Part II from the wrong angle. I keep hoping that they might someday approach the artistry of the original ELO, and that must be too high an expectation. I used to refer to the “original” ELO as the “real,” ELO, but the band’s lineup on this album starts to erode my old argument/complaint that this isn’t the “real” ELO. Bassist Kelly Groucutt, whose backup harmony vocals complemented Jeff Lynne’s leads and overdubs so well from 1975 to 1981, has joined ELO Part II, and arranger/keyboardist Louis Clark and violinist Mik Kaminski, who played with the original ELO from 1973 right through the last album, have joined full-time. Of course ELO/Move drummer Bev Bevan is still there (when ELO Part II debuted in 1990 he was the only representative of the original band). Of the original Part II lineup, only Bevan and Eric Troyer (who once sang backup for John Lennon) have been retained, and if only for Troyer, this is good. The Troyer-penned songs on Part II’s first album were the closest the band came to the distinctive Jeff-Lynne-dictated ELO sound of old, and even Troyer’s best was none too close to that style. Signing on is gravelly voiced guitarist Phil Bates, whom I confess to never having heard of before. The album kicks off with a ponderous and predictable orchestral overture, a lot of which sounds synthesized. “Fire on High”, it ain’t. Then “Breakin’ Down the Walls” opens up and it’s apparent that the band has improved – if for no other reason than the addition of Groucutt and Kaminski – but its orchestra has been diminished. It’s sure not ELO. This song in particular is virtually indistinguishable from Tears for Fears’ “Sowing The Seeds Of Love”…just not as good. A nifty Troyer tune called “Power Of A Million Lights” follows, but the song suffers from some unimaginative arrangement. It’s clear that the entire pool of talent in ELO Part II lacks Jeff Lynne’s genius for classically Beatlesque twists in song structure. “One More Tomorrow” is a bland ballad; Troyer’s almost funky “Don’t Wanna” is a palatable no-strings rocker, and “Voices” sounds like a second-rate copy of Alan Parsons’ recent “You’re the Voice”, found on Parsons’ live CD which was released at around the same time. Following this is a rather pointless 4-second track called “Vixen”, which consists of someone saying “Hello, hello, you little vixen!” A Groucutt-penned tune called “The Fox” wades somewhat tiringly through a tale of a fox hunt from the fox’s point of view. “Love Or Money”, written by Troyer and Bates, improves on the unpredictability of song arrangements that the group should be concentrating on, but not by much. Then follows “Whiskey Girls”, a standard issue southern-fried rocker I could’ve done without. “Twist Of The Knife” is a nondescript collaboration between Groucutt, Bevan and Bates, and “So Glad You Said Goodbye” is a Troyer/Bevan/Bates number that doesn’t arrive at a distinguishable style until about three minutes into the song. Clark’s “Underture” continues the theme of the album’s opening track, followed by a soundbyte of the band in the studio.

“Breakin’ Down The Walls”, “Power Of A Million Lights” and “Don’t Wanna” are the best songs on the album, yet none of them are as close to the sound most listeners associate with ELO as the first album’s “Honest Men” and “Thousand Eyes”. I know, I know, it’s not the same band, and maybe they’re not trying to be the same band. If this continues to be the case, they need to change their name soon so there will be fewer disappointed listeners; if these blokes intend to continue passing themselves off as ELO they might do well to study what made the original incarnation of the band so outstanding and learn from it. I don’t think Jeff Lynne would’ve written a song like “Whiskey Girls”, or would written a song such as “Breakin’ Down the Walls” which constantly addresses its lyrics to an unspecified “girl.” And while someone will no doubt remind me that Jeff Lynne has nothing to do with ELO Part II, someone should also advise the band of this so they can hurry up and change Rating: 3 out of 4that name. ELO Part II may have all but a couple of key members of the original ELO – no, make that the real ELO after all – but without the caliber of songwriting, arranging and performing that Lynne brought to the group, they don’t even have half of what made ELO what it was. One thing that the real ELO was happened to be my favorite band of all time, hands-down; Part II…isn’t.

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  1. Moment of Truth – Overture (4:07)
  2. Breakin’ Down The Walls (4:27)
  3. Power of a Million Lights (4:54)
  4. Interlude 3 (0:32)
  5. One More Tomorrow (5:00)
  6. Don’t Wanna (3:41)
  7. Voices (4:27)
  8. Interlude 2 (0:20)
  9. Vixen (0:04)
  10. The Fox (4:35)
  11. Love Or Money (4:08)
  12. Blue Violin (1:10)
  13. Whiskey Girls (3:37)
  14. Interlude 1 (0:58)
  15. Twist of the Knife (4:30)
  16. So Glad You Said Goodbye (4:12)
  17. Underture (2:52)
  18. The Leaving (0:25)

Released by: Edel
Release date: 1995
Total running time: 54:15

ELO Part II – Live With The Moscow Symphony Orchestra

Electric Light Orchestra Part Two - Greatest Hits Live with the Moscow Symphony Orchestra“Well,” I thought, “that’s nice, it’s in the bargain bin.” Then I did a slight double-take. “What? This is new, and it’s already in the bargain bin.” This meant trouble. The fading remnants of my favorite band were fading really fast if their new release, even though it is a live album, was entering the music store shelves at rock-bottom. And I found out why (that’s the great thing about bargains, eh?). This is, at best, an excessively mediocre live album. Years later, in 1996, I saw ELO Part II perform live when they made a stop in my home town of Fort Smith, Arkansas, and I discovered that ELO Part II does a kick-ass live show, just not on this album. Perhaps the improvement in their live repertoire is that they’ve expanded their selection of post-ELO originals, which are better suited to their live performance needs because they know what they’re capable of on stage. This album is comprised entirely – with the singular exception of “Thousand Eyes” – of classic ELO songs which people have come to know with a full string section. The Moscow Symphony can deliver the goods most of the time, but even they have their off nights, as can be heard when somebody hits an outrageously, painfully flat note in the Rating: 1 out of 4Beethoven intro to “Roll Over Beethoven”. I think as ELO Part II expands their repertoire of original tunes, their live show will only get better and better, as the new songs are tailored to the new group’s strengths. In fact, I keep hearing about a new live album called One Night which has yet to make it to the States, and I’d love to hear it, because, even though this album fell seriously flat, ELO Part II really brings the house down live.

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  1. Overture (2:26)
  2. Turn To Stone (3:51)
  3. Evil Woman (4:20)
  4. Showdown (5:08)
  5. Livin’ Thing (4:04)
  6. Hold On Tight (2:58)
  7. Thousand Eyes (4:28)
  8. Can’t Get It Out Of My Head (6:46)
  9. Telephone Line (5:04)
  10. Roll Over Beethoven (6:05)

Released by: Scotti Bros.
Release date: 1992
Total running time: 45:10

Electric Light Orchestra Part Two

Electric Light Orchestra Part TwoIt really surprised me when I read that ELO drummer Bev Bevan was trying to pull the band back together again, and trying to do so without Jeff Lynne, who had made the original ELO a success. I remember thinking that this was a daft idea, and how bad it was going to be. Then the album came out.

I hated to admit it when I heard it, but there are parts of ELO Part II’s debut album that aren’t bad at all. And on two songs in particular, ELO Part II actually managed to sound not entirely unlike the original ELO. “Thousand Eyes”, composed by the versatile Eric Troyer (who is ELO Part II’s saving grace), and “Honest Men” really do come across as authentically ELO-esque, complete with Louis Clark string arrangements, wonderful harmonies and ever-shifting rhythms. If the rest of the album falls prey to any particular problem, it is a tendency to strive less for an ELO sound than for a sort of string-embellished glam-rock style. That aside, to my amazement, I can honestly say I do recommend this album to you. ELO Part II has Rating: 2 out of 4yet to surpass this feat on record, which is a bit of a shame, since their self-titled debut proves that the potential is there! If you don’t believe me, listen to “Thousand Eyes” toward the end of the song, right after the bridge, as the strings begin their rapid-fire arpeggios during a reprise of the chorus, and it’s almost like it’s 1979 all over again. If only for the length of that one song, they did it.

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  1. Hello (1:17)
  2. Honest Men (6:13)
  3. Every Night (3:15)
  4. Once Upon A Time (4:18)
  5. Heartbreaker (4:55)
  6. Thousand Eyes (4:49)
  7. For the Love of a Woman (4:01)
  8. Kiss Me Red (4:01)
  9. Heart of Hearts (4:18)
  10. Easy Street (4:56)

Released by: Scotti Bros.
Release date: 1990
Total running time: 42:03