Electric Light Orchestra

Part Two: Strange Magic

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For anyone who doesn't already know, this is ELO minus Jeff Lynne, who supposedly left the band because he didn't like to tour. That said, leaving the band wasn't enough for him: he did everything in his legal power to stop this unit from recording their lone studio album under the ELO name, and he tried even harder to keep the new unit, led by Bev Bevan, from touring at all. While the studio album was dodgy, the two live offerings to come first from the U.K.'s Charly imprint, and now from Digimode Entertainment (despite the terrible packaging), are actually quite solid. Strange Magic features 14 tracks, recorded quite well, and performed fantastically. Given that the vocalists here are Neil Lockwood, keyboardist Eric Troyer, and guitarist Pete Haycock, they wisely left off any material from the Part Two album (aka Once Upon a Time), and do a bangup job on classics like the title track, "Do Ya," "Sweet Talkin' Woman," "Turn to Stone," and "Don't Bring Me Down," which closes the album. The orchestrations, harmonies, and keyboard arrangements are shockingly good as well. What it all means, of course, is that they pulled off something they weren't supposed to. This set fares far better than the studio album by far.

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