To celebrate the 35th anniversary of Electric Light Orchestra’s founding by Jeff Lynne and Roy Wood, Epic/Legacy is releasing expanded editions of seven of the band’s albums, starting with No Answer and ELO II. Founded in Birmingham, England, the band re-energized music by fusing orchestral rock with classical music.
Originally released in 1973, ELO II features the band’s first U.S. chart hit “Roll Over Beethoven” – a cover of Chuck Berry’s popular rock & roll tune mixed with Beethoven’s “Fifth Symphony.” Epic in scale, “Roll Over Beethoven” effortlessly zigzags between Chuck Berry rhythm and Beethoven melody, becoming an elegant blend of pure instrumental composition and classic 50s rock.
Lynne loved to work in the studio and experiment with different sounds and styles. In “Mama,” ELO mixes R&B with its orchestral rock sound, creating an easy going, soulful number. Soul is a huge part of ELO’s sound, despite the band’s dominant electric tones. Lynne sings heart-wrenching lyrics in “Kuiama” that combines soul and country rock, resembling Creedence Clearwater Revival and even Led Zeppelin at times with its long instrumental solos.
ELO is a band that doesn’t put lyrics center stage in its songs. The instrumentals are the dominant and most important aspect of its music. ELO juxtaposes complex rhythms and beats into a mystic jumble of harmonious enchantment. The starting instrumentals set the mood and pace of the songs. In some cases, the mood and pace changes throughout the song like in “From The Sun To The World (Boogie No. 1)” [Real Media stream, Windows Media stream] where it shifts rhythm and style many times, eventually slowing to a ballad march before speeding into a full boogie medley.
This album is an expanded edition with four never-before-released tracks. There is an instrumental version of “In Old England Town” [Real Media stream, Windows Media stream] that sounds very incomplete without any lyrics. There is a session outtake of “Baby I Apologize,” which is a reinventing of band’s own sound. It has more vocals and is more upbeat than any other song. “In Old England Town” and “Roll Over Beethoven” receive alternate mix versions, and sound darker than their original counterparts. “In Old England Town” has heavier guitar riffs while “Roll Over Beethoven” is longer and more electric — it seems to have lost its classical spirit.
Electric Light Orchestra is a revelation in classic rock with many bands owing much to its original sound. Bands like Trans-Siberian Orchestra probably wouldn’t exist without ELO’s experimental creativity. The band let their hands and hearts tell the story.