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20 of 21 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Zany, dark, orchestral prog-rock brilliance!, 1 Aug 2008
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This review is from: ELO 2 (Audio CD)
If you are a relative newcomer to ELO or have only heard albums such as 'A New World Record' or 'Out Of The Blue', then 'ELO 2' may come as a little bit of a shock to you the first time you hear it, especially if you're expecting the album to be anything like the hit single, 'Roll Over Beethoven'. Apart from the fact that Jeff's vocals sound little like they do in his mainstream heyday and the instruments sound (delightfully) barely affected by Jeff's production - the cellos and violins sound like you hear them live instead of being the lush, smooth sound you hear on ELO's later work - this album is a little difficult to categorise. You can call it experimental, wacky, medieval prog-rock if you like, but it's probably best not to try to fit this album into any genre. In fact, the only album to sound anything like it is the debut album by ELO, although the first ELO album has far more of a Roy Wood feel to it than this one - with good reason.

Roy Wood left ELO not long after the preparation for this album started and so Jeff Lynne was left to finish it by himself, with the aid of his bandmates, of course. What resulted from those sessions were five tracks (the shortest one weighing in at 6 mins 51 seconds) mostly recorded live in the studio with minimal overdubs, owing to the band's close understanding with each other gained during their numerous live dates prior to the recording sessions, and they are, pretty much, all magnificent. 'In Old England Town (Boogie No. 2)' is a moody, powerful rock number which highlights the gloriously scratchy cellos and has a mildly pessimistic but very inventive lyrical theme. 'Momma...' is a sad song with truly beautiful music telling the story of a lonely girl traveling far from home, lamenting the loss of her Mother.

'Roll Over Beethoven' is a brilliantly overblown, seven minute version of the Chuck Berry composition with a bit of Beethoven's 5th Symphony thrown in for good measure. It's simply a great moment in rock and roll and, in my opinion, the definitive version of that song. 'From The Sun To The World (Boogie No. 1)' is a multi-sectioned, lyrically-apocalyptic piece of near-crazy genius which starts of reminiscent of Beethoven's 'Moonlight Sonata' and then gets gradually heavier, eventually featuring a fantastic boogie-woogie piano part guaranteed to get every listener's head nodding and toes tapping. The last song on the original album, 'Kuiama', at just over eleven minutes, is an ambitious piece telling of the emotional cost of war. Altogether, the original album is difficult to fault, being a piece of creative, dark brilliance - part-rock, part-classical, completely original. In my opinion, this is a more accomplished piece of work than their debut, by far.

This 2003 re-release, specifically, is fantastic. I owned the original CD release for a number of years and the sound quality has been vastly improved. All of the instruments sound sharper, Jeff's vocals, which had a tendency to sound a little muffled, ring out clearly and it is all the more enjoyable for the clean-up and enhancement it has so obviously had. The bonus and previously unreleased tracks (eight of them!) are a mostly great addition, even if the inclusion of 'Showdown' is completely superfluous. Of course, it's a wonderful song and I never tire of hearing it, so I really shouldn't complain, but I must have it at least half a dozen times across my ELO collection already.

The real gems are the jaunty, quirky 'Baby I Apologise', 'Mambo' (an early version of 'Dreaming Of 4000', which appeared on 'On The Third Day') and the collaboration with Marc Bolan, 'Everyone's Born To Die' which, although a little rough, is much more than just a curio and certainly deserved a release before 2003. The intro to 'Roll Over Beethoven (Take 1) is also well worth hearing! All in all, this is an excellent album which I'd happily recommend to Jeff Lynne fans who are looking to expand their collections and for those who aren't sure whether to replace their existing copy of this album - the enhanced sound of this underrated album and the bonus tracks make this purchase more than worthwhile.
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