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Electric Light Orchestra

Crossover Prog

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Electric Light Orchestra Face the Music album cover
3.38 | 296 ratings | 30 reviews | 19% 5 stars

Good, but non-essential

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Studio Album, released in 1975

Songs / Tracks Listing

1. Fire On High (5:30)
2. Waterfall (4:27)
3. Evil Woman (4:19)
4. Nightrider (4:23)
5. Poker (3:31)
6. Strange Magic (4:29)
7. Down Home Town (3:54)
8. One Summer Dream (5:47)

Total Time 36:20

Bonus tracks on 2006 remaster:
9. Fire On High Intro (early alternative mix) (3:23) *
10. Evil Woman (Stripped Down mix) (4:00) *
11. Strange Magic (U.S. single edit) (3:27)
12. Waterfall (instrumental mix) (4:15) *

* Previously unreleased

Line-up / Musicians

- Jeff Lynne / lead & backing vocals, guitar, string arrangements, producer
- Richard Tandy / piano, Moog, guitar, clavinet, string arrangements
- Melvyn Gale / cello
- Hugh McDowell / cello
- Mik Kaminski / violin
- Kelly Groucutt / bass, lead & backing vocals
- Bev Bevan / drums, percussion, backing vocals

- Louis Clark / string arrangements & conductor
- "Brian's feet" / Brian's footsteps
- Ellie Greenwich / uncredited vocals
- Susan Collins / uncredited vocals
- Nancy O'Neill / uncredited vocals
- Margaret Raymond / uncredited vocals

Releases information

Artwork: Fred Valentine (photo)

LP United Artists Records UA-LA546-G (1975, US)

CD Epic - 982 648 2 (1991, UK )
CD Jet Records - ZK 57184 (1993, US)
CD Legacy - 82796 94278 2 (2006, US) Remastered with 4 bonus tracks

Thanks to ClemofNazareth for the addition
and to projeKct for the last updates
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ELECTRIC LIGHT ORCHESTRA Face the Music ratings distribution

(296 ratings)
Essential: a masterpiece of progressive rock music(19%)
Excellent addition to any prog rock music collection(42%)
Good, but non-essential (34%)
Collectors/fans only (4%)
Poor. Only for completionists (1%)


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Collaborators/Experts Reviews

Review by progaeopteryx
3 stars ELO's Face the Music continues the bands trend towards making radio-friendly pop music, although there are still remnants of the band's earlier progressive roots in place. Jeff Lynne continues to use an orchestra to back the band (instead of just the two cellists and a violinist featured on ELO II and On the Third Day) and will continue to do so into the 1980's. Again it gives the band a more violin-based string sound, rather than the cello-based sound on their earlier efforts. The production has improved over their previous release, Eldorado.

The best song on Face the Music is the energetic instrumental Fire on High. Fire on High has a fascinating backmasked message in the beginning of the song which reads "The music is reversible, but time is not... Turn back! Turn back! Turn back!" If my memory serves me right, this was in response to an accusation of a Satanic message in reverse on their Eldorado album (which is hogwash by the way). In mocking fashion, they also had choral singers singing "Hallelujah" in the beginning. They would later name their 1983 album Secret Messages after this controversy. Anyhow, this is indeed an eerie beginning to a one of the best songs ELO ever made in their post-prog era.

Unfortunately, the rest of Face the Music is rather bland, containing the danceable pop hit Evil Woman, a nice rocker in Poker (with a rare Richard Tandy keyboard solo), the dreary, hit-me-with-a-pillowcase Strange Magic, and the country-tinged Down Home Town. Nightrider is a half-way decent song and I've always admire the final track One Summer Dream with it's dreamy sounding acoustic guitar. This is the last album by ELO to show some progressive moments. Good enough for three stars, but not essential at all.

Review by Sean Trane
3 stars With their fifth album (actually their sixth if you count the double live album (The Night The Lights Went Out) released worldwide except in the UK and North America, Face the Music is the last step before the Spaceship era (the concerts were played from some fictitious flying saucer), but in every way did it pave the super-stardom to come with the following albums. With the previous album, we had seen original member Hugh Mc Dowell returning to the fold and his influences from Roy Wood's Wizzard is felt better through this time (Hugh is much more than a member of the string section) with the ever-increasing poppier feel of ELO.

This album spawned three monstrous hit: the hauntingly beautifully simple Strange Magic, the ultra commercial Evil Woman and Night Rider (called after Lynne's pre-Idle Race group days). The rest of the album is worthy ELO tracks but not that progressive anymore especially if you take away the string section's arrangements

Still a commendable album, but I will stop my string of ELO reviews with this album, for after, they really are of the pop realm, but they will for a long time remain truthful to the very typically ELO spirit developed in their early albums. Most haters said that they sold out completely, but by looking at their early discography and their later stuff , they fared much better than Genesis in terms of selling-out. Iam rounding the rating of this album to the upper star, because it is still worthy of ELO.

Review by erik neuteboom
3 stars ELO is one oth those bands that you recognize within a few seconds, the vocals and wall of violins is so distinctive! I bought this album because I was mesmerized by the dark cover with that scary old fashioned looking electric chair. The first song sounds very promising featuring alternating, often bombastic symphonic rock with lots of good musical ideas but you can also notice ELO their pop sound. And that's my problem with Face The Music: almost every song has more or less its moments (interesting symphonic rock), I notice some fine clavinet in the hit single Evil Woman but mostly ELO leans too much towards pop: Jeff Lynne obviously influenced by The Beatles, the way Lennon and McCartney wrote their influential progressive pop songs. Nice effort, very tasteful and plesant music but a bit too superficial to keep my attention. A solid 2,5 stars.
Review by Easy Livin
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator / Retired Admin
3 stars Let's face the music.and dance!

After surprising us with the sublime "Eldorado", Jeff Lynne began to fully appreciate the talent he had for writing commercially successful material. His ear for a strong melody and awareness of how to exploit that melody to the full had until then been largely hidden behind cover versions, rambling but admittedly more progressive epics, and prior to that, the charismatic Roy Wood.

With "Face the music", Lynne quickly moved to develop the commercial side of the band's music further, generally simplifying and shortening the songs while ensuring that the melodies were irresistible and the choruses memorable.

The album opens as it were a continuation of "Eldorado" with the intense orchestrated instrumental "Fire on high". This five minute overture moves quickly through a succession of themes, all the while maintaining a pace which insists upon listener participation of some sort.

"Waterfall" or minor variations thereof was a popular song title around this time, with 10CC and Paul McCartney, among many others, creating strong material of that name. In most cases the songs are similar, the hypnotic effect of these natural wonders clearly being an inspiration to many songwriters. So it is here that we have a reflective ballad along the lines of "Can't get it out of my head" from the previous album.

"Evil woman" is the most significant track here, although by no means the best. The song represents the template which Lynne would use with ELO to create a long succession of massively successful hit singles. Indeed, "Evil woman" shot to the high reaches of the singles chart so quickly, Lynne would have had little time to appreciate the monster he had created. It is hard to dislike such a song, it is tuneful, catchy, and enjoyable, but it is as formulaic as the string of singles which saw Status Quo labelled as the band of three chords.

Side two of the LP has a good diversity of material, including the superb dynamics of the more interestingly structured "Poker", the cod US Southern rock of "Down home town" (complete with land of Dixie references) and the dreamy "Strange magic". It is "One summer dream" though which is the piece-de-resistance. This lilting ballad paints a delightful picture of natural perfection.

Aside from the rather lacklustre sleeve illustrations, this is a fine if overtly commercial album. It indicated clearly the path which the band would follow as their star rose ever higher over the coming years.

Review by Muzikman
4 stars Artist: Electric Light Orchestra Title: No Answer (1972), ELO II (1973), On The Third Day (1973), Face The Music (1975), A New World Record (1976) Genre: Rock-Progressive-Pop Label:Epic/Legacy Website

Clearly, ELO was a progressive band, although most people never looked upon them as that because of their long run on the pop charts. They had it all going for them-a unique brand of rock music with parts of an orchestra mixed in and a singer/songwriter/guitar player on level with the best in the world. And to put the proverbial icing on the cake, they made a universal mixture of music that anyone could relate to and it still stands up very well today. Even though ELO had all of this and more, they were underrated. I feel their contributions to recorded music were peerless. Perhaps looking back now, we can all realize just how far ahead of their time they really were. And with advent of these marvelous reissues, we can hear it all better than ever and reconfirm why ELO was one of the greatest bands to record orchestrated rock music.

In the early years of ELO when Roy Wood teamed with Lynne, the band sounded very different, as No Answer and ELO II clearly illustrate. These are good recordings and a fine testament to the development of the band's future nucleus. The foundation was there for a great future but Wood split to form Wizard. This was a blessing in disguise for Lynne as he was able to take control of his destiny by working towards the sound he envisioned all along. This classic ELO sound was finally realized on Eldorado then subsequent recordings Face The Music and A New World Record. These three recordings were the apex of the ELO output. Face The Music is my personal favorite and "Fire On High" has one of the most memorable riffs I have ever heard. To this day, you can hear those instantly recognizable hook filled chords on TV commercials and programs.

Every CD comes packed with bonus tracks and booklets that have archival photos and an overview of what was going on with the band at the time. If you listen to the CDs in order and read the booklets, it serves as a good history of the band and helps you to understand how things unfolded over the years. The sound is excellent, as most remastered albums are these days. Epic/Legacy obviously gets it, if you are going to remaster a band's catalog you have to offer the listeners a little something extra besides a cleaner sound if you expect them to reach for their wallets again. For those that already have the albums on CD, this is worth looking into for the sound quality, and bonus tracks. On New World Record, the bonus tracks are exceptionally intriguing. Out of the five reissues, this album offers the best bonus tracks. "Surrender" is great tune, it sounds good enough to be a hit single today, and the early instrumental mixes of "Tightrope" and "Telephone Line" are very cool as well.

There are plenty of reasons to get these reissues if you are a longtime fan, and if you are looking for an introduction to the band, there is a lot more than the greatest hits packages available. These albums dive deep into the history of ELO and give a wonderful overview of a band that made groundbreaking music that still sounds fresh and distinctive to this day.

© Keith "MuzikMan" Hannaleck

October 5, 2006

Review by ZowieZiggy
3 stars What comes next to El Dorado ? Well, I must say that with "Face the Music" ELO does a pretty good job again.

Jeff is pursuing his idea to offer a great instrumental opener with "Fire One High". The intro sounds a bit similar to "Overture" from El Dorado in its initial pHase (but ELO will produce a lot like this). Nice piece of music, less intruiging but interesting. The pop orientation will be deeply visited of course (more and more should I say). But melodies are really nice and of course, deeply influenced by the Fab Four ("Waterfall" is a prefect example). The famous hit "Evil Woman"is a good rocking number : good rythm (piano-oriented), catchy melody again. Not their best number but very acceptable : pop music as nice as it could be with this so famous classic flavour. Same mood again with "Nightrider". Not a highlight, but a very decent song.

"The Poker" is one of my preferred number of this album : nice rythm changes (from good old rock'n'roll to mellowish ballad). Its rocking side reminds me of "Illusions in G Major" from "El Dorado". The album goes on very gently with "Strange Magic", another very nice ballad of master Jeff. The weaker song of the album is probably "Down home Town" : a country rock song which I donot really like, but it is really the only one of the album.

We'll go back to a strong melody-oriented pop song with the closing number : "One Summer Dream". Maybe a bit too repetitive, but still pleasant. As you have read, my feeling about this effort is rather positive : it is a very levelled album : no real highlights and only one weak moment. It is not a masterpiece of course but the type of album that you may listen to in its entirety to relax after a hard day. It was the last ELO album I bought at the time of release.

Three stars.

Review by progaardvark
COLLABORATOR Crossover/Symphonic/RPI Teams
3 stars By the time 1975 came around and ELO released Face the Music, the band had nearly completely abandoned their progressive rock roots chiming in with numbers like Evil Woman and Strange Magic. Still, some of the material here would have fit nicely within the prog genre, notably the opener Fire On High (which received a good deal of radio play, and more so decades later after everyone forgot about Strange Magic and Evil Woman), and some other numbers that had slight progressive tendencies like Nightrider, the Moog solo on Poker, and One Summer Dream (probably one of the most beautiful songs Lynne ever composed). The addition of Kelly Groucutt on bass was an improvement over Lynne playing it himself, and maybe even an improvement over De Albuquerque's playing.

Production-wise, Face the Music sounds better than its predecessor Eldorado, but musically it's probably a notch lower since the focus was more on making something popular radio would find appealing. Even so, I still find Face the Music and enjoyable listen the few times I'm in the mood, only occasionally skipping a track here and there in my CD player. Enough so to give it a three star rating. A recommended acquisition for ELO fans, but others should seek out their first three albums first. Good, but hardly essential.

Review by kenethlevine
3 stars In retrospect, "Face the Music" was the transitional album between the more serious downbeat earlier ELO material and the superficial pop with violin that became their bread and butter. As such, along with "Eldorado", it is one of their best albums, combining lessons already learned with a more radio friendly sensibility, even if the blatant commerciality was barely round the corner at this time.

The album starts off with a roar, the superb instrumental "Fire on High" easily standing as a career highpoint. For a rare occasion the orchestra is used to dramatic and bombastic ends, and the several themes interweave skillfully. It is almost the only track that is detectable on the prog scale on the album. "Waterfall" is pleasant but exceedingly dated in its laid-backness and psych feel. In contrast, "Evil Woman" and "Nightrider" are two highlights, both possessing fine orchestral touches and very catchy choruses. The fact that Lynne made a career of parodying these styles for another decade should not take away from what they represented at the time.

Side 2 is weaker, although "Poker" is a pretty good rocker and "One Summer Dream" a beautiful ballad. "Down Home Town" is neither fish nor fowl while the hit "Strange Magic" does more than hint at the lameness which was to follow. Indeed I never realized how edgeless some of this material was at the time, and 3+ decades of erosion has completed the job.

More of a good but not great quality pop album than a prog album, this might be the last album where ELO really faced the music rather than the audience. While they made millions with their new approach, it was to the steady detriment of their art.

Review by ghost_of_morphy
2 stars Change is a wonderful thing. Electric Light Orchestra changed from a band that put out mediocre but not necessarily bad prog to a band that put out some pretty decent, intelligent rock songs. As one of the very few groups that got better when they left their prog roots behind, we should appreciate the direction in which Lynne chose to steer his band. But Face The Music got caught in the awkward adolescent period of a maturing act. Prog has largely been abandoned and what is left in ELO's repetoire isn't that good, but the straight rock that would make Out Of The Blue such a special moment still hasn't come together yet. Evil Woman is of course a very good rocker indeed, and Strange Magic and One Summer Dream are passable ballads. Fire On High has the saving grace of having both feet firmly planted in progdom, even though it isn't really all that good. The rest of the album, however, just doesn't pass muster. I'll give this two stars. If you aren't an Electric Light Orchestra fan, this doesn't belong in your collection.
Review by Gooner
4 stars I generally toss ELO in with other bands such as 10cc, Moody Blues, early-Split Enz, Alan Parsons Project & Barclay James Harvest. I wouldn't really consider them a progressive rock band in the traditional sense, but much more interesting than the average pop rock band in the '70s. ELO were known for their craft in the studio and production values, much like the aforementioned other bands(notwithstanding Barclay James Harvest...who were much heavier live!). Most of you have heard Fire On High the instrumental. The intro used to frighten me as a child and generally still gives me the willies as an adult. Scary indeed. :-) Other excellent tracks like _Waterfall_, _One Summer Dream_ and _Strange Magic_ which remind me slightly of Harry Nilsson for their orchestral nature. I think everyone has _Evil Woman_ which is danceable in a Boz Scaggs _Lowdown_ sort of way. Great album that I recommend to any _progressive pop rock_ fan. Get the remastered version on Epic/Legacy if you can. It's richer and warmer compared to the original release which sounded tinny.

Review by Gatot
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
3 stars "Face The Music" is ELO's fifth studio album where as previous album "Eldorado" that string arrangement was composed by Louis Clark, the key characteristic of this album is heavily on orchestration. As a band with pop rock orientation, this could be considered pioneer in a way that orchestration was being used intensely throughout the album. The opening track "Fire on High" (5:30) is an impressive orchestra in instrumental style that serves as an overture. It seems that the band was quite sure in their music direction as per Jeff Lynne concept where the album starts with an overture. This kind of approach has also been adopted by power metal bands before the music blasts off with double pedal drums rhythm section.

"Waterfall" (4:27) follows nicely with nice melody and medium tempo music revolves around vocal work of Jeff Lynne. It then flows naturally to another pop outfit which was also released as single: "Evil Woman". It's pretty clear how Jeff composed this song which contains the elements of light orchestra in the pop song. This made this song was different from what available in music industry at that time, and no wonder this song received good acceptance from public. I especially like the way piano is being composed in the music. "Nightrider" (4:23) is actually not a major hit but it's still an interesting track to enjoy. "Poker" (3:31) relies heavily on guitar work combined with keyboard at the beginning of the track followed with fast tempo rock music.

"Strange Magic" (4:29) is another hit that was quite popular in radio program. "Down Home Town" (3:54) reminds me to Kansas on the opening part with violin work, even though when vocal enters it's something different. "One Summer Dream" (5:47) opens thematically with great string section followed with vocal in mellow style. The music moves into upbeat style once the drums enter the music. It's quite nice song.

Overall, this kind of album is suitable for you to take a break after enjoying some heavy and complex stuff. It's recommended as easy listening outfit. Keep on proggin' ..!

Peace on earth and mercy mild - GW

Review by tszirmay
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
3 stars "Face the Music" is not as 'grimy" as "On the Third Day" and not as lushly symphonic as "El Dorado" but rather the beginning of the swerve towards more "commercial" arrangements which , sadly would worsen with each subsequent release. All this because this album failed to chart well in the UK and ELO would "Americanize" their future sound. It remains nevertheless a masterful album with lots of shining qualities, huge melodies and a series of "classic" songs ("Strange Magic", "One Summer Dream" and "Evil Woman"). The production and overall sound is simply impeccable and the musicianship verging on somewhat sterile perfection. But only track 1 can qualify as anything remotely progressive. "Fire on High" is a rousing opener with thundering drums blasting away riotously, violins bathed in violence and spiraling effects make this the most progressive track here but no real innovation as this is a variation on previous album openers. The heavily Beatled "Waterfall" is a decent tune while "Poker", "Nightrider" and "Down Home Town" really don't impress by any stretch, certainly no where near the "harder" songs from "On the Third Day" . As many others have correctly stated, ELO is now a commercially motivated pop outfit that evolved from arguably the most progressive rock band structure ever. The quality of their pop is undeniable but frankly the "hits" require little imagination beyond the fabulous sound and production. It's all just way too clean .A damn shame though but a very common occurrence, as prog was veering already into its death dive. Cool cover though 3 Zepp Lynnes
Review by SouthSideoftheSky
2 stars Electric chair orchestra?

In the short silence between track one and track two of this album something bad happened: ELO transformed from an Art Rock band into a commercial Pop band. Sure, the signs had been there for a long time and already on their second album (imaginatively called ELO II) there were a couple of more commercial tracks and the same can be said of On The Third Day and certainly of Eldorado. But on Face The Music the relation was the other way around, i.e. one or two non-Pop moments among an ocean of aspiring radio hits. As implied, the opening track is the best one. It is an instrumental with some surprising twists and turns that belongs to my all time favourite ELO tracks. The track is also noteworthy for including a backward-message! However, this album really constituted the end of ELO's Art Rock-era and the beginning of their Pop-era. The sound is exactly the same as on Eldorado, but while that album was held together by a concept, Face The Music is based on individual tunes some of which are rather tedious and some of which are quite good.

If you are about to investigate ELO, don't begin here! Start instead with the band's earlier albums, particularly On The Third Day, Eldorado and the self-titled debut (aka No Answer)

Review by Epignosis
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
4 stars The Electric Light Orchestra is without a doubt one of my favorite bands simply because of the sheer number of phenomenal songs in their catalogue. Face the Music contains several of those, and only has one song I do not like at all. For all the pop elements of this record, the band shows their adventurous side by opening with not only an instrumental, but a terrifying first minute and a half. Much of this album is typical ELO- well-dressed progressive pop tunes with old school rock and roll married to classical music. Face the Music is essential for fans of the band (although they would likely already own it), and is also a great starting point for anyone who has not heard much from them. Although not flawless, this album makes for a wonderful yet terse listening experience.

"Fire on High" One of the creepiest bits in all of music is the first ninety seconds of this incredible instrumental. Hellish industrial noises juxtaposed with some of Handel's Messiah, all underneath a bed of harrowing strings- this is the stuff of which nightmares are made. And those chilling reversed words are paralyzing (Drummer Bev Beavan warns, "The music is reversible but time is not. Turn back. Turn back. Turn back. Turn back;" it was the first of many pokes from Jeff Lynne at religious groups having a fit over backmasking). Abruptly the piece proper begins: Spiraling strings and a wonderful electric guitar theme is the catharsis for the intensity that precedes it, and then it all explodes into that well-known acoustic chord progression, flanged drums, and sweet violin, a part which was frequently used for athletic events and carnival rides. In a final display, the choir sings the title of the song.

"Waterfall" Lynne has been quoted as saying that "Waterfall" was "a bit of a favorite" of his, and with good reason. This is a gorgeous song with the trademark ELO sound, one which rivals beauties like "Telephone Line," "Can't Get It Out of My Head," and "Strange Magic." In fact, the gentle opening of "Strange Magic" is referenced in the beginning here. It's too bad that with these lush melodies and this gorgeous yet simplistic arrangement, this song often gets overlooked on compilations. The refrain has a Queen element in terms of complex harmonies and falsetto vocals.

"Evil Woman" Probably the first Electric Light Orchestra song I ever heard, this is also one of my favorites (but my list of favorites for this band is embarrassingly long). Intriguingly, the ELO's first worldwide hit was a song Lynne himself admitted to writing as filler for the album, having penned it in a half an hour. It uses an extravagant orchestral introduction dominated by dominant seventh chords and a lead vocal giving the opening line. Afterward, it has a simplistic but effective chord progression, a lightheartedly bitter verse, and a quite stylish chorus with some excellent backup vocals. The instrumental section has light piano over that same bouncy rhythm, along with some dazzling strings. The brief string interlude comes from elsewhere on the album, and is played backwards and through a flange effect- effortless.

"Nightrider" Over somewhat dark strings, Lynne sings a sweet, occasionally falsetto melody. Soon the song lodges into a pleasant groove, with the late bassist Kelly Groucutt singing some of the lead vocals. Not long after the start of the third minute, the listener can hear the terse string interlude utilized on "Evil Woman," only this time played forward and without the heavy effects.

"Poker" Quite different from anything else on this record, this is a heavy rock and roll song with a synthesizer lead just before the first verse. The vocally versatile Groucutt handles the main singing duties. One of the riffs has a Led Zeppelin-like quality, as it is reminiscent of "Kashmir."

"Strange Magic" One of the most delicate ELO songs there is, this has that lovely introduction that is almost like a Hawaiian lap steel guitar. The graceful singing and the exotic sitar through a flange offer subtle complexities to this beautifully placid song. Multiple vocal parts during the fading refrain is a spectacular way to end the piece.

"Down Home Town" Showcasing their "strange magic" in the studio, ELO employs an effective backmasking transition- the original sound is the from "Waterfall," by the way- but unfortunately, this slipshod rocker is the weakest on the record. For some reason they incorporate excerpts from "Dixie," the volume of which can be a tad painful relative to the rest of the music.

"One Summer Dream" Following an orchestral introduction, ELO displays once more their uncanny ability to write bittersweet songs bathed in an efficient simplicity that allows the work to be unforgettable. This airy piece is not bogged down by excessive instrumentation, but just floats along a sleepy and nostalgic melody.

Review by Prog Sothoth
COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
3 stars This album begins with the song that I surprisingly enough identify the band with more than any other tune. Watching sports with my father during my days as a guppie would be the main reason, since it was utilized by CBS for their sports programming back then. The opening is certainly quite ominous, with backwards messages proclaiming that "music is reversable but time is not" opposed to "destroy your family and worship The Old Ones" that hysterical mothers and preachers were concerned with due to the subliminal message furor being in full swing. The song is very progressive, reaching majestic heights and then reverting to one of the most famous speedy acoustic guitar strummings since The Moody Blues "The Question". This part of the song, of course, is timeless, as symphonic elements join in with the chord progression adding strong melodies to the mix. "High On Fire" is a fantastic opener that in no way exemplifies what the rest of the album sounds like whatsoever.

The rest of the album is somewhat of a mixed bag, with most of these mixed nuggets being rather tasty, if not insanely delicious. The big hits off this album, "Evil Woman" and "Strange Magic" are actually pretty cool and memorable slices of AOR soft rock before disco reared its polyester skull to the world. Another track I consider rather pleasant is the final number, "One Summer Dream", which is without a doubt a dreamy track with a touch of Beatlesque flair and spaced out female back up vocals that add some ethereal qualities. These songs have little if any 'prog' qualities, but they are worthy of merit for their catchy sensibilities. The reason I mark this album as a mixed bag, is that not everything works concerning Face The Music, with by far the biggest degradation of this album's greatness being "Down Home Town", a song so unbearable and odious I felt like burning and destroying a quiet village while subjecting myself to this excruciating wave of musical nausea. By the time Dixie lyrics were tossed in I think I remember vomiting forth a small shoggoth the first time I heard this brown steaming mass of music.

Overall it's a good album that could have been great with a couple of song extractions and possibly replaced by a song or two that emit a similar vibe to the album's memorable and progressive opener. It's a good album, and a must for fans of the band, and those nostalgic for 70s era sports programming.

Review by Warthur
2 stars On Eldorado, ELO manage to hit the perfect balance between their pop-leaning side and their progressive aspects - but the equilibrium was so delicate that it's no surprise it didn't last long. Face the Music sees the band moving in a much more commercial direction, with songs such as Evil Woman being well-crafted pop pieces which were hits at the time but which, personally, I can't get excited about - they seem plastic and insincere to my ears. The more progressive and classically-influenced pieces on the album seem lacklustre and unenthusiastic, as though ELO were simply going through the motions of providing something for their prog audience but didn't have their hearts in it. On the whole, Face the Music is a transitional album which won't impress those who liked their earlier, more progressive material and has too much filler to be good value to fans of their pop period.
Review by Chicapah
3 stars I think of Jeff Lynne, the CEO of ELO, as being a musical entrepreneur. He saw an open niche and he (along with his cohorts) filled it while steadfastly maintaining his personal integrity and semi-progressive mindset. Scoffers should note that writing and producing catchy songs wasn't something he turned to out of frustration. On the contrary, he'd been a purveyor of pop all along, starting back in the 60s when he was a member of the British outfit Idle Race. When he joined the magnificent Move in '70 his knack for making memorable melodies complimented Roy Wood's eccentricities perfectly. Later, when Lynne and Wood set up a symphonic prog format for their Electric Light Orchestra offshoot that incorporated a string section as a fundamental and equal aspect of the band, they effectively carved out that special niche I mentioned earlier. The group's debut LP is still a dazzling monument to imagination and ingenuity but, unfortunately, the piquant partnership between Jeff and Roy soured and ELO soon took on the appearance of a dead bulb. Wood left to form his odd Wizzard group but Lynne still believed in what they'd started and carried on gallantly. While they were virtually ignored in their native land ELO slowly but surely gained a fascinated following in the states and their 4th album, the intriguing "Eldorado," climbed into the top 20 of the Billboard charts in '74. When "Face the Music" hit the record bins in the fall of the following year they had a large, receptive audience eager to hear (and buy) more of their contagious prog-hued pop that offered a seductive alternative to the formula-bound fare that was saturating the AM radio airwaves. As I said, Jeff saw a demand and he supplied what was needed to meet it. Don't hold that against him just because ELO didn't sound like ELP.

One of the things I found so engaging about The Move's music was their frequently irreverent approach to making records that included everything from adding duck calls to employing made-up instruments such as their clanging "Banjar." "Face the Music" opens with a small dose of that same fun-in-the-studio attitude that leads to the eclectic instrumental, "Fire on High." The beginning of the song displays traces of their prior album's dreamy nostalgia and they use it to usher in the hard-strummed acoustic guitar foundation that makes the number stick in your head like a childhood memory. While it's somewhat quirky and disjointed in places (The inherent looseness is due mostly to Bev Bevan's demeaning drumming. I'll try my best to avoid mocking his lack of talent more than I already have in related reviews but it'll be a struggle.), it still possesses the inimitable ELO personality that can be so charming so often. (The tune probably sounds familiar. For years a snippet of this track served as theme music for "CBS Sports Spectacular" broadcasts.) "Waterfall" follows and it's a typical example of Lynne's passion for pop decorated with unconventional orchestral colorings. Like a warm shower, it takes me from this fallen world for a few minutes and that's nothing to snub your nose at. The staple of classic rock radio, "Evil Woman," is next. Yes, it'll be played to death forevermore but there's absolutely nothing wrong with contemplating a well-constructed pop ditty with the universal appeal that this one has. Next time it comes on listen for the easy-to-overlook interplay between Richard Tandy's piano and the sprightly string arrangement.

"Nightrider" is deceivingly infectious. Something about this tune is so congenial and debonair, as if every member of the band was performing it with a heartfelt smile on their face. I can't explain it. What could've and perhaps should've come off as corny as Nebraska farmland comes off as undeniably cool. It's a fun track. The low point of the proceedings is next, an aggressive rocker entitled "Poker." Sung decently enough by bassist Kelly Groucutt, it starts strong but loses vital momentum when the group tries to get too cute and clever with the arrangement. They should've kept it simple. The charismatic "Strange Magic" follows and the ship gets back on a steady course. Once again, Jeff doesn't let the ensemble's idiosyncratic nature get in the way of giving birth to a fine specimen of easy-going, enjoyable pop. He can't help himself from composing what his muse tells him to write and he obeys without question. (If that's an affliction then I'd love to have it.) "Down Home Town" is yet another instance of the English trying their damnedest to emulate Americana/C&W music with amusing results. The Stones, Sting and a host of others have attempted in vain to capture the southern aroma so ELO is in good company here. The energetic violins do give it a noble Aaron Copland feel and the cheerful chorus deserves some respect but overall it's kind of a mess. They end on a high note, though. "One Summer Dream" features a pretty string section intro that has a nice Randy Newman-ish ring to it before it turns into a sweet, loping song with an admirable amount of depth within its texture. I'll admit that it's as mushy as a bowl of sugary oatmeal but I do find myself being swept up in its lush embrace and I can't bring myself to apologize for that. It's a comforting sensation to indulge in.

If this is the kind of light, fluffy crossover prog material that leaves a bad taste in your mouth then I suspect that ELO might as well be roped in with Justin Beiber as far as you're concerned and therefore you have no use for them at all. That's okay. I understand. Different strokes and all that bilge water. But there's ample room for variety to thrive under the Progressive Rock umbrella and these guys have as much right to be here as The Moody Blues or Journey. "Face the Music" isn't a landmark recording that changed musical history yet it's no scurvy commercial sell-out, either. Its success solidified ELO's status as an international entity. "Evil Woman" and "Strange Magic" were huge hits that propelled the LP to the #8 spot and that's nothing to sneer at. (Look, I'd rather sit through this than "Tormato" or "Invisible Touch" any day of the week.) It's off-the-reservation pop done with class, existing in a dimension of symphonic prog music that many progressive bands and/or artists eyed with envy but weren't able to enter into without falling flat on their faces. ELO was just being honest. 3.3 stars.

Review by TCat
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator / Retired Admin
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.

Latest members reviews

3 stars This is a transitional album for ELO, along with the three previous ones, they made quite a big development. "Face the music" shows brilliant songwriting skills by Lynne and their prevalent typical 70's sound where strings are pushed to a supporting role to the main rock instruments. Classical r ... (read more)

Report this review (#2905072) | Posted by sgtpepper | Thursday, April 6, 2023 | Review Permanlink

4 stars As another reviewer says, ELO got better as they shed their progressive roots. That's opposite to what people on a prog rock site expect to hear and consequently the ratings go down as you chronologically move through the ELO discography. If you seek lengthy compositions, unusual time signatures ... (read more)

Report this review (#2403319) | Posted by iluvmarillion | Tuesday, May 19, 2020 | Review Permanlink

4 stars ANOTHER PERSONAL FAVORITE FOR PERSONAL REASONS! I have been a fan of ELO since the release of Eldorado with an album cover which I found very much to my taste at the time and still do. I wonder if it was strictly an artistic gamble using that image which was and is undoubtedly strongly affiliated ... (read more)

Report this review (#1692070) | Posted by HarmonyDissonan | Sunday, February 12, 2017 | Review Permanlink

5 stars An absolute gem of an album; probably my favourite of all the catalogue. Yes, the early albums are stunning, very different and timeless, but for me this is the album that I have consistently played over the last 39 years. Without a weak track the whole album has a mixture of prog and some un ... (read more)

Report this review (#1224252) | Posted by demolition man | Saturday, July 26, 2014 | Review Permanlink

4 stars FACE THE MUSIC from 1975, is one of the last really prog-like albums put out by The Electric Light Orchestra. Too bad, because it is a very good release and maybe my favorite ELO album along with ELO II and ELDORADO. I would reccomend it to anyone trying to check out what this band and Jeff Lynne we ... (read more)

Report this review (#733589) | Posted by mohaveman | Friday, April 20, 2012 | Review Permanlink

5 stars There we have one of the very finest moments of this band. After symphonic, challenging Eldorado, E.L.O came with more song-oriented collection of songs, that varies from tender beautiful ballads, to classical music with dramatic symphonic storms, pop, rock 'n' roll and even country. Mastermind ... (read more)

Report this review (#204128) | Posted by stewe | Monday, February 23, 2009 | Review Permanlink

2 stars I was so impressed by El Dorado that I had to run right out and get my hands on some more ELO. And so, I ended up learning a lesson. Just because one album blows your mind doesn't mean the next one in line will. Don't get me wrong, I don't really think Face the Music is a particularly bad album. I ... (read more)

Report this review (#163787) | Posted by R-A-N-M-A | Thursday, March 13, 2008 | Review Permanlink

3 stars By 1975, the Electric Light Orchestra were becoming something of a musical paradox. Their melodic pop sensibilities, as can be heard on the catchy "Evil Woman" and the even catchier "Stange Magic", were coming to the forefront thanks to the talents of ELO frontman Jeff Lynne. Surprisingly, the ... (read more)

Report this review (#137883) | Posted by jimidom | Wednesday, September 12, 2007 | Review Permanlink

3 stars Maybe we have some other type of instruments than those which are commonly used for rock genre like violin or cello but this is just a pop-rock album with symphonic/orchestral and a Beatlesque influence here and there. There are some enjoyable moments and all the songs have the same level but ... (read more)

Report this review (#124302) | Posted by petrica | Friday, June 1, 2007 | Review Permanlink

3 stars This is a good album...but not much for art-rock. The only one that could be an art-rocker is 'Fire on High', which represents a Beatlesque kind of song. (Think of 'Strawberry Fields Forever' or 'Revolution #9'.) It almost represents Dante's Inferno in five minutes. Starting with light piano c ... (read more)

Report this review (#81675) | Posted by | Wednesday, June 21, 2006 | Review Permanlink

4 stars Fire on High is another top opener by ELO that's up there with 'Tightrope' on 'A New World Record'. This one is a sort of 'Duelling Banjos' but guitars versus violins. One to crank up! What a guitar sound! It goes off at quite a pace, and this one track alone is nearly worth the price of the rest ... (read more)

Report this review (#71866) | Posted by | Tuesday, March 14, 2006 | Review Permanlink

3 stars A fine album with many interesting moments and many twists and turns. Taken as a cumulative whole it's cool; an eclectic collection of good tunes, dressed up in Jeff Lynne's dense production, that entertains throughout, albeit with some cheesy pop moments thrown in for good measure. The opener ... (read more)

Report this review (#68462) | Posted by | Sunday, February 5, 2006 | Review Permanlink

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