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Electric Light Orchestra - Face The Music CD (album) cover

FACE THE MUSIC

Electric Light Orchestra

 

Crossover Prog

3.37 | 249 ratings

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TCat
Special Collaborator
Eclectic / Prog Metal / Heavy Prog Team
3 stars ELO slips easily into the pop world leaving behind serious progressive music almost completely in this album. Yes, it has been hinting towards that end ever since their 2nd album. "El Dorado" had a nice thread running through it, almost making it a suite of songs in disguise as the tracks are tied together with somewhat campy, yet believable orchestral threads. The orchestra returns for the band's fifth album, but there is no cohesive thread holding it all together, and unfortunately, the album suffers from this. There really isn't a pleasing balance here, this album leans toward less creative tracks and more radio-friendly sound, and this is evident in their singles "Evil Woman" and "Strange Magic", which really use the orchestra more for atmosphere than any kind of structural backing.

So, everyone knows these two tracks, but surely the deeper tracks are better right? Well, not in my opinion. To me it sounds forced. "Fire on High" tries to generate some excitement to start off the album, but the orchestral additions seem very formulaic and even the backwards talking and the dark effects have become somewhat cliché by now. Nothing new is ventured here, but it is decent enough to open the album with. "Waterfall" goes for the "romantic" side with a slower track that tries to be the "Can't Get It Outta My Head" of this album. Yes, it's nice enough, but nothing really new here either. In fact, this track sounds better in the instrumental version that closes the 2006 expanded reissue. A bit schmaltzy, but it's okay. It is nice how it follows into the hit "Evil Woman" however, but that track has been overplayed and for me, quickly lost it's charm, almost touching on the disco/dance sound that was becoming more prevalent in the day. The use of strings that opens "Nightrider" brings back the cliché sound that ELO was using to the point of overuse, and when the song picks up tempo, it continues to hold no surprises or interesting turns, just rock mixed with orchestral swashes of usualness. And side one is over without any real standouts.

"Poker" opens the 2nd side with a heavier rock and roll sound and a swirling synth riff that might grab your attention before it descends into the same old territory. Verse, chorus, riff, repeat. It does manage to add in some extra between-chorus bridges that really don't add any emotion to it all. "Strange Magic", the 2nd hit for the album, is actually the best track in my opinion, even if it has also been overplayed. It is a nice, lush and soft track that feels like a cool breeze on a hot summer night, and the orchestral sections are reminiscent of El Dorado, but not really connected to anything else on the album, so it sounds like they were added as an afterthought, and the high falsetto background singing might remind you of The Bee Gees in their disco era. "Down Home Town" tries to add a little hoedown, country sound to it all, but comes across a bit cheesy. Then, before you know it, the album closer "One Summer Dream" shoots for the nostalgic ballad style, again trying to emulate "Can't Get It Outta ...." again. Then it's all over, and I am always left thinking, "is that it"?

Overall, the album comes across as not being very cohesive which was the one saving grace for the previous album "El Dorado", and now it all just sounds like the clichés are just glued together, or recycled into an average sounding album. However, the album ended up doing better than any of their previous releases, so Jeff Lynne accomplished what he had set out to do and turned an exciting concept into pop music and did it over the course of 5 albums. While it's true that the next full length album "A New World's Record" would feel more authentic with songs that seemed to be more thought out, this one was a definite misstep for me. I did like it the first 2 times I heard it many years ago, but it quickly wore out its welcome in my early years. I can manage to give it 3 stars, at least it's not as bad as what would come along eventually, but it's still not an album I return to hardly ever.

TCat | 3/5 |

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