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Electric Light Orchestra II
Electric Light Orchestra

United Artists 040
Released: April 1973
Chart Peak: #62
Weeks Charted: 22

Jeff LynneApart from his expertise as a multi-instrumentalist, raving vocalist and studio ace, Jeff Lynne certainly ranks among rock's leading wits. His position as scintillating japester would be secure even if he never wrote another thing after the Move's "Do Ya," whose ludicrously surreal lyrics and hilarious succession of flash lick-heisting made that song one of the delights of 1972. Then, too, Jeff's considerable proficiencies as a parodist were made manifest on the Move's 1971 masterwork, Message from the Country, as witness "The Minister," a neat "Paperback Writer" takeoff, and "No Time," a lovely tune that functioned simultaneously as a dry Bee Gees send-up.

By now it is fairly common knowledge that Lynne and fellow Move co-genius Roy Wood wished to form an ensemble, the Electric Light Orchestra, that would effectively fuse rock and the classics, using the Beatles' "I Am the Walrus" as both model and departure point. Apparently there was only room for one mastermind and after the first ELO LP Wood exited to head Wizzard, leaving Lynne and top-notch drummer Bev Bevan to keep the Electric Light burning with a bit of aid from three string players from the London Symphony.

ELO II, then, might be considered a debut LP by a new group but it proves that Jeff Lynne's aptitude as a put-on artist is as keen as ever, possibly too keen. Hear the strings on "In Old England Town (Boogie No. 2)" sawing away lugubriously, like an aggregation of amateurs (who happen to be narcoleptics) whiling away a Sunday afternoon, as Jeff's distorted vocal over a plodding melody line skewers heavy music for all time. Perhaps his target is the Move's own delightfully torpid "Brontosaurus"?

"From the Sun to the World (Boogie No. 1)" is a burlesque wrestling match between a Rossini overture and a contempo-boogie, with each contestant eye-gouging and knee-dropping each other. And lest we forget, there is the rocking big hit revival of "Roll Over Beethoven," with its labored use of the famed four-note opening motive from Symphony No. 5, which certainly must have been a concerted effort to poke fun at Ludwig Van, chuckle at Berry and otherwise hoot at the entire hackneyed and pompous notion of "returning to one's roots." Yuk, yuk.

If, however, ELO II is not intended in jest, then somebody is in trouble. As for Jeff Lynne, aliquando bonus dormitat Homerus.

- James Isaacs, Rolling Stone, 9/27/73.

Bonus Reviews!

There's a very thin line indeed between a legitimate classical-rock fusion (à la, say, Procol Harum) and "MacArthur Park"-style kitsch. The ELO (Jeff Lynne and Bev Bevan's half of what used to be, and may still be, the Move) understand this, and by and large they manage to stay on the right side of the line, only occasionally sounding forced or pretentious. Most of their stuff is pure pop at heart anyway; strip away the cellos and synthesizers from Lynne's "Mama," for example, and what you have is a haunting, Beatlish ballad. Even at their worst, they manage to make creeps like Emerson, Lake, and Palmer unnecessary, and at their best -- an absolutely amazing grafting of Beethoven licks onto Chuck Berry's "Roll Over Beethoven" -- they come across as a demented wedding of Charles Ives and the Three Stooges. How much further this approach can be extended, I wouldn't venture to guess, but I have no doubt that, coupled with the reputedly cataclysmic stage act, it will suffice to make them monstrously popular when they finally make an American tour. I'm drooling already.

- Steve Simels, Stereo Review, 9/73.

A number of groups have attempted to fuse rock and classical music, but ELO has taken these two musical forces, faced them off, and crashed them into each other with amazingly original and successful results. Headed by ex-Move Jeff Lynne on vocals, guitar and Moog (as well as production), the band -- with its guitars, cellos, violins, pianos and drums -- incorporates straight rock, classical overtones, country and boogie influences into the same song at times. The term "wall of sound" has been tossed around a lot, but this LP is one case where it applies. Best cuts: "From The Sun To The World (Boogie #1)," "Roll Over Beethoven."

- Billboard, 1973.

Roy Wood's departure leaves Jeff Lynne to re-create this band in his own image: a conventional art-rocker, less ponderous and more long-winded than previously indicated, with an uncommonly lyrical side and his own sense of humor. The symphonic "Roll Over Beethoven" has been out there waiting for a long time. C+

- Robert Christgau, Christgau's Record Guide, 1981.

A middling second album with dull stretches that are almost balanced by the rip-roaring "Roll over Beethoven." * *

- Bruce Eder, The All-Music Guide to Rock, 1995.

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