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

Dave Edmunds – Information

Dave Edmunds - InformationIf this album is famous for anything, it’s probably famous for being oft-mistaken for ELO. Jeff Lynne of ELO fame produced the first two singles from an album that sounds like Dave Edmunds’ attempt to refashion himself as a synth-pop-rocker after years of a perfectly satisfactory career as an old-fashioned rock ‘n’ roller. The Lynne-produced “Information” and “Slipping Away” (the latter of which Lynne also wrote) sounded almost exactly like ELO’s 1983 Secret Messages album, with the trademark harmonies, keyboard and guitar work in just the right amounts. Edmunds produced the rest of the album, and it’s still good stuff, even with the unusually synth-heavy tone of the whole thing. Among the best on this album rating: 3 out of 4are “What Have I Got To Do To Win?” (my favorite, an experiment in synth-heavy blues rock) and “Don’t Call Me Tonight”, and Edmunds even makes a concession to pure rock – and heavy blues rock at that – with “Wait”. It’s not for nothing that Edmunds earned himself a reputation as one of Britain’s best rockers.

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  1. Slipping Away (4:19)
  2. Don’t You Double (3:13)
  3. I Want You So Bad (2:36)
  4. Wait (4:10)
  5. The Watch On My Wrist (2:07)
  6. The Shape I’m In (2:26)
  7. Information (3:52)
  8. Feel So Right (3:29)
  9. What Have I Got To Do To Win? (3:16)
  10. Don’t Call Me Tonight (2:26)
  11. Have A Heart (2:55)

Released by: Columbia
Release date: 1983
Total running time: 34:49

The Jeff Lynne Years, 1968-1973

A Message From The Country - The Jeff Lynne Years, 1968-1973This is a handy collection of some of the earliest recorded works by my favorite performer/songwriter in all of rock ‘n’ roll, Jeff Lynne of ELO fame. Even in the late 60’s tunes he wrote for his band Idle Race, it’s easy to hear the Lennon/McCartney influences – actually not so much easy to hear them, but impossible to miss them. In some cases, the quirky melodies and harmonies almost hit one over the head with their Beatle-ish-ness – at this early stage in his career, Lynne probably had yet to incorporate musical influences other than his beloved Fab Four into his work. Still, while much of the Move and ELO music on this album can be heard elsewhere (and, indeed, are reviewed elsewhere here), the 4 out of 4Idle Race songs are truly well-crafted for their time, and considering that Lynne was just venturing into songwriting. “Follow Me Follow”, “Girl At The Window” and especially “Come With Me” – the latter with more than a little George Harrison flavor – are exceptional, and “The Birthday Party”, which was Lynne’s first outing as a producer and also his first experience with a string section, is particularly interesting.

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  1. Do Ya (4:05 – The Move, 1972)
  2. The Minister (4:30 – The Move, 1971)
  3. Girl at the Window (3:46 – Idle Race, 1969)
  4. Roll Over Beethoven (4:35 – ELO, 1972)
  5. Words of Aaron (5:28 – The Move, 1971)
  6. Mr. Radio (5:05 – ELO, 1971)
  7. The Skeleton and the Roundabout (2:21 – Idle Race, 1968)
  8. Message From the Country (4:48 – The Move, 1971)
  9. Come With Me (2:45 – Idle Race, 1969)
  10. Morning Sunshine (1:49 – Idle Race, 1968)
  11. 10538 Overture (5:42 – ELO, 1971)
  12. Happy Birthday/The Birthday (3:24 – Idle Race, 1968)
  13. No Time (3:42 – The Move, 1971)
  14. Showdown (4:11 – ELO, 1973)
  15. In Old England Town (6:53 – ELO, 1972)
  16. Big Chief Wooly Bosher (5:17 – Idle Race, 1969)
  17. Queen of the Hours (3:24 – ELO, 1971)
  18. Follow Me Follow (2:46 – Idle Race, 1968)

Released by: EMI
Release date: 1989
Total running time: 74:31

Electric Light Orchestra – Afterglow

Electric Light Orchestra - AfterglowThis wonderful three-disc set arrived at the height of my ELO-worship, but I only wish I’d had my CD player at the time. Very seldom in my music review pages will you hear me complain about the quality of anything other than the music itself, but here I have to offer you, the consumer, a strong warning: if you’re going to get Afterglow, get it on CD. Even if you don’t have a CD player, get the discs and have someone make you a copy of them on tape and then put the discs away. The cassettes on which Afterglow was duplicated were hideously cheap, and I went through two cassette copies of the third and most important volume of the set before I finally bought the CD box set. That’s the end of my consumer warning.

The reason the third CD is the most important is because it features several previously unavailable songs which were B-sides to singles from the 1980s, or were tracks deleted from Time and Secret Messages prior to pressing. The Time B-side “When Time Stood Still” is worth the cost of the entire set, being one of the best examples of what really made ELO great in the 80s. Other highlights of the “new” material include “Buildings Have Eyes”, the jazzy “No Way Out”, the dreamy “Mandalay”, and the epic-length and too-consciously-trying-to-be-Beatlesque “Hello My Old Friend”, all tracks which would have made 1983’s Secret Messages not only a double album, but a great double album, at least on a par with Out Of The Blue. The rest of the box set consists of usually well-chosen tracks from throughout the band’s history, though as always I like the album tracks better than the singles, so the box set’s emphasis 3 out of 4on ELO’s popular fare leaves me high and dry. Curious omissions from the set include the music from 1980’s Xanadu (removed from the set at the request of Jeff Lynne, according to Rolling Stone), and the beautiful instrumental B-side “After All”, which I only have as a scratched-up 45 and desperately want on CD. Perhaps someday…

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    (Third disc only)

  1. Prologue (1:16)
  2. Twilight (3:33)
  3. Julie Don’t Live Here (3:40)
  4. Shine a Little Love (4:39)
  5. When Time Stood Still (3:33)
  6. Rain is Falling (2:57)
  7. Bouncer (3:13)
  8. Hello My Old Friend (7:51)
  9. Hold On Tight (3:06)
  10. Four Little Diamonds (4:08)
  11. Mandalay (5:19)
  12. Buildings Have Eyes (3:55)
  13. So Serious (2:39)
  14. A Matter of Fact (3:58)
  15. No Way Out (3:23)
  16. Getting to the Point (4:28)
  17. Destination Unknown (4:05)
  18. Rock ‘n’ Roll is King (3:07)

Released by: Epic
Release date: 1990
Total running time: 68:50