Electric Light Orchestra, Part II

Part Two: Once Upon A Time

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Simply put, this is a dodgy reissue of a rather dodgy album. Issued in 1991, ELO: Part Two (here released under its single's title, "Once Upon aTime," is the band led by Bev Bevan without its linchpin, chief songwriter and/or creative "genius" Jeff Lynne, who was off producing records and being part of other projects. It's not that the music here is utterly dreadful -- though the packaging certainly is-- it's that it's so self-consciously trying to be ELO, and it doesn't succeed at all. Keyboardist Eric Troyer wrote most of the material here, though he collaborated with guitarist Pete Haycock as well; Bevan and Haycock penned a few songs, too. The band's frontman at this time was Neil Lockwood, though both Haycock and Troyer took lead vocal duties on a number of tracks. Cluing you into the desperation here, there's a rather strange, surprise cover here of "Kiss Me Red," which was written by Tom Kelly and Billy Steinberg, the pair that penned "Like a Virgin" for Madonna. The cut was also covered by Cheap Trick. For hardcore ELO fans, this poor imitation may indeed suffice for lack of anything resembling the real thing. Beatles-isms are numerous, string sounds -- save for Mik Kaminski's violin -- are here, but the entire set feels like a hodge-podge of reaching so far back for yesterday's glories it cracks, while trying simultaneously to employ some of pop's then-current excesses.

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