on 23 August 2006
Even taking into account the dodgy track "Down Home Town", this has to rate as ELO's best album. The songwriting is superior to Eldorado yet it hasn't quite reached the commercialism of A New World Record and subsequent albums. "Fire On High" is an incredible opener and leads seamlessly into probably what is THE greatest album track of all time, "Waterfall", a harmony drenched masterpiece. "Evil Woman", "Strange Magic" and "Nightrider" are three of ELO's best ever singles and then there's "Poker" which has to rate as their best rocker.
A previous reviewer claims the only good track on offer on Face The Music is "Fire On High" which makes me wonder if he has been listening to the same album!! Still, there's no accounting for taste!
on 29 January 2015
This is one of the first rock albums I bought, back when I was 15 (I was a late developer) and I have many fond memories of this, mainly consisting of playing "air drums" to the opening track "Fire On High" (it's almost impossible NOT to!). Forty years later, and I listened to this on the way into work and remembered why I loved it so much. It's the perfect blend of pop and prog, with rocky nuggets to be found shining in the clear, flowing streams of music. While "Eldorado" verged on the slightly pompous (I love it, but as a wayward child) "Face the Music" seems to be the perfect tipping point, the fine balance between the adventurous and the pure fun. The opening track alone is worth the price of admission, with its eerie opening, backwards vocals (and, for those who can no longer play their vinyl backwards, here's what I wrecked my copy to find: "The music is reversible, but time is not. Turn back! Turn back!" You're welcome) right into its dramatic, epic choral singing and then...whack! snap! that acoustic twelve-string riffing like razor blades and then the thunderous drums kicking in. It's all exhilarating and thoroughly, heart-poundingly exciting. The sweeping, beautiful ballads are all here: "Waterfall", "Strange Magic" and the perfect fade-out of "One Summer Dream", as well as the ass-kicking, rock riffing, "Poker" and the poptastic "Evil Woman" and "Night Rider". Hell, I'll even stick my neck out and say that I LIKE "Down Home Town", which sounds like they're all having a huge amount of infectious fun.
Praise, while I'm at it, for the extended version and the notes that revealed one of the backing singers to be the legendary Ellie Greenwich, co-writer of such stone cold classics as "Mountain Deep, River High" "Leader of the Pack", etc. What she's doing lending uncredited vocals to this is anyone's guess, and I can't believe I had to wait over thirty years to learn this.
For a long time this album was hard to find, and seemed unfairly overlooked. I suppose because it was after this that they finally tipped over into the processed cheese that they become much better known for and started selling out stadiums, but this scintillating piece of beauty captures them at their best, as far as I'm concerned: you can still hear the sense of adventure, the exciting juxtaposition of classical instruments and rock (witness the sinuous violin line on "Fire on High", which always sent a shiver through me) and that fine, fine balancing act they pull off here.
The Electric Light Orchestra's fifth album, “Face The Music” is one of the most underrated in their catalogue. It's curiously out of place between “Eldorado” (1974) and “A New World Record” (1976) mainly because it appears to return to a slightly rawer sound than the carefully polished fourth and, most notably, Bev Bevan's drums are not only are very high in the mix but he also appears to have been given creative license to cut loose in a way that hadn't been heard on record since his days in The Move. This results in a very powerful sound, with a heavier rock feel to the whole project and an altogether much more “in your face” punch to the music. This release also marked bassist and backing vocalist Kelly Groucutt's début with the band, as well as new cellist Melvyn Gale, replacing the two Mikes (de Alberquerque and Edwards). Unlike “Eldorado”, “Face The Music” is very much a straight forward rock album, albeit with Jeff's classical/orchestral fusion ethos and each track a separate entity, with Jeff given the freedom to write about exactly what he wanted without having to fit in to any particular concept. “Face The Music” spawned the UK top ten hit “Evil Woman” (as well as minor, but equally worthy, hit “Strange Magic”) and became the best selling ELO album to date, but often seems to be overlooked when the best of the band's work is discussed amongst fans.
One of the aces up the sleeve of “Face The Music” is the creepy opening instrumental “Fire On High”, five and a half minutes of sheer genius, with superb lead guitar work from Jeff, magnificent Bev Bevan drum fills that definitely get the adrenaline pumping and inspired string arrangements; it remains one of the finest ELO tracks that “greatest hits” buyers constantly miss out on. The sublime “Waterfall” is a work of immense beauty, the classic falling chord progression giving the composition a masterful classical air and the instrumental bridge with the sweeping, swirling strings and thumping toms adds some further dramatic flair. “Evil Woman”, a stomping slice of piano-driven rock was an obvious single and, with the exception of “Showdown” was the most commercial song Jeff had written for ELO up to that point. Sharp, slick, catchy; “Evil Woman” was the beginning of the era of ultra-radio-friendly Electric Light Orchestra songs. Ending side one of the original vinyl record is the excellent and classy “Nightrider” (a small tribute to Jeff's first band The Nightriders) which, although also released as a single, failed to chart.
Side two begins with a frantic, uncharacteristically heavy track, “Poker”, using the card game as a metaphor, and is notable for Kelly Groucutt's lead vocal, as well as some truly insane drumming from Bevan; it's a breathless performance and really rather thrilling to listen to. “Strange Magic”, a dreamy composition, with a chorus that highlights a phased acoustic guitar, continues the classy feel of the album which only dips slightly for “Down Home Town”, a jokey number with a bit of a country hoe-down influence which feels a little out of place compared to the rest of the record. It's a likeable, pleasant enough toe-tapper, but it is, without doubt, the weakest offering here. The original album concludes with “One Summer Dream”, a composition that shares many of its characteristics with “Waterfall”, but is the lesser of the two tracks, meaning that “Face The Music” finishes not quite as convincingly as it begins. It is, on the whole, an excellent album, though, and none of the songs are any less than highly enjoyable, with three quarters of the music being really rather exceptional.
The re-issue of this album includes an alternative “Fire On High” intro which, although historically interesting, isn't something fans will want to listen to again and again, but the alternative mix of “Evil Woman” is different enough to be well worth a listen (according to the liner notes, Jeff prefers it to the original), you get the US single mix of “Strange Magic” and a rather wonderful instrumental version of “Waterfall” which showcases the majesty of the string section behind the soaring melody. It is a piece of music so beauteous and stirring , it featured heavily at my wedding service as the piece of music playing while the guests were waiting for the ceremony to begin (I think that underlines how this particular writer feels about Jeff Lynne's music!). To me, “Face The Music” is a milestone in Jeff's songwriting abilities and having the skill and confidence to truly project his own voice. Although Lynne's love of The Beatles manifests itself here as a single line in “Evil Woman” (“There's a hole in my head where the rain comes in”), it would be very difficult to pinpoint any real Beatles influence to the melodies or arrangements, with Jeff stamping his distinct style and personality well and truly on this record. Indeed, “Face The Music” is an excellent rebuttal to any lazy musical commentator who dismisses Lynne as a Beatles copyist and proves to be another fine example of his musical genius. Arguably, the best was yet to come, but this album is a criminally underrated gem in the ELO catalogue and stands alongside their very best releases quite comfortably.
on 21 July 2014
Shamefully, the great British public were very slow on the uptake when it came to appreciating the wonderful ELO. Make no mistake this is, for me, the best album that Jeff Lynne and the guys ever released; 'Fire On High' is a scintillating opener - when I first heard it back in 1975, its creepy, gothic opening really freaked me out - and the lovely 'Waterfall' (one of 3 gorgeous ballads here) is the perfect soother. 'Evil Woman' is classic ELO; a thumping rocker which never seems to age whilst 'Nightrider' repeats the trick and should definitely have been a big hit. The speedy 'Poker' keeps things thundering along before the beautiful 'Strange Magic' cools things down again. Sadly, 'Down Home Town' lets things down somewhat, but, the superb 'One Summer Dream' rounds things off very nicely indeed. Tremendous album - buy this and simply luxuriate.
on 9 February 2002
this is the real link between the progressive-rock
era to the mega-hits success.
the leader, jeff lynne, made here a triumphant production with dark edges ("fire on high"), FM radio hits ("evil woman", "strange magic") and other real underrated gems.
go out and buy this one. if you love the melodic side of rock (like the beatles, supertramp or queen) - you will love this album a lot !
on 4 November 2015
Having read earlier reviews, I've just purchased/received this album. It's fabulous. If I may be bold, this might be considered the first of a trilogy of ELO albums: Face The Music, A New World Record, Out Of The Blue. You can here the development throughout these three. Discovery was a major change (and I love this album, too; albeit "Disco-Very"!).
But back to FTM. Great songwriting, great orchestration. As for Down Home Town: if you like Dylan/Travelling Wilburys, you will like this too. Did the TWs cover this track? Not sure. But it sure sounds like a pre-cursor to them.
In my opinion, there isn't a bad track on this album, and you can here how Jeff Lynne's songwriting is evolving into the tracks on A New World Record and Out Of The Blue. I love it!
I'm now tempted to go back an album, to ... Elderado ...