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