[Review] Electric Light Orchestra: Face the Music (1975)

The band strikes gold with a streamlined sound and two hit singles: Strange Magic and Evil Woman.

Kronomyth 5.0: Poker phase.

The mix of Beatlesque melodies, strings and studio sophistication further solidifies on Face the Music. The album produced a pair of massive singles: Evil Woman and Strange Magic. Beginning with another overture (this time the chilling Fire on High, one of several instances where backwards voices are used on the album), Face the Music features some very solid tracks (Waterfall, Nightrider, One Summer Dream) and a couple of clunkers (Poker, Down Home Town).

Historically, I’ve seen this and Eldorado as two of the less interesting chapters from the ELO story, simply because the filler-to-killer ratio seemed too high. But that was before I heard the 2006 remaster. The trouble with most of the early ELO albums is their murkiness. The remaster removes that veil, and the sheer beauty of songs like “Waterfall” and “One Summer Dream” is striking. The opening “Fire on High” (explored in an alternative mix as the first bonus track) is also more interesting in its remastered state, though still too eclectic for my tastes.

As the first album to feature Kelly Groucutt and Melvyn Gale, Face the Music marks a new chapter for ELO, ushering in a golden age of brilliant albums (New World, Blue, Discovery). The hits are absolute classics, while the misses in some cases barely miss being great songs themselves. I would avoid owning this (and most of the early ELO) on vinyl. The 2006 Epic/Legacy remaster sheds a far more flattering light on the music and adds one whole imaginary star to my impression of this album. The bonus tracks are also a nice touch (US single edit of “Strange Magic,” awwwright!) though secondary to the improved sound.

Original elpee version

A1. Fire on High (5:29)
A2. Waterfall (4:11)
A3. Evil Woman (4:34)
A4. Nightrider (4:22)
B1. Poker (3:30)
B2. Strange Magic (4:29)
B3. Down Home Town (3:53)
B4. One Summer Dream (5:45)

CD reissue bonus tracks
9. Fire on High Intro (early alternative mix) (3:20)
10. Evil Woman (stripped down mix) (4:57)
11. Strange Magic (US single edit) (3:25)
12. Waterfall (instrumental mix) (4:15)

All compositions by Jeff Lynne.

The Players

Bev Bevan (drums and percussion, backing vocals), Melvyn Gale (cello), Kelly Groucutt (bass, vocals and backing vocals), Mik Kaminsky (violin), Jeff Lynne (guitar, vocals, backing vocals, string arrangements), Hugh McDowall (cello), Richard Tandy (piano, moog, guitar, clavinet, string arrangements) with Louis Clark (string arrangements), Brian’s feet (Brian’s footsteps). Produced by Jeff Lynne; engineered by Mack and Richard; remix engineered by Jimmy and Dave.

The Pictures

Cover and inside sleeve photos by Fred Valentine. Back cover photo by Norman Seeff. Design & execution by John Kehe, Mick Haggerty/Art Attack.

The Plastic

Released on elpee and 8-track on September 1, 1975 in the US (United Artists, UA-LA546-G/EA546-H), on November 14, 1975 in the UK (United Artists, UAG 30034) and Germany (United Artists, UAS 30034 XOT), and in 1975 in Australia and New Zealand (Polydor/Jet, 2310 414), Mexico (Epic, NJS 17227) and the Netherlands (2344 054) with lyrics innersleeve. Reached #8 on the US charts (RIAA-certified gold record).

  1. Re-released on green vinyl elpee in 1978 in the UK (Jet, JETLP 201) with lyrics innersleeve.
  2. Re-issued on elpee In 1978 in Japan (Jet, GP-544) with lyrics insert.
  3. Re-issued on elpee in Mexico (Polydor, LRG-16184).
  4. Re-issued on elpee in June 1985 in the UK (Epic, 32544).
  5. Re-issued on elpee and compact disc in the US (Jet, JZ/ZK 35527).
  6. Re-issued on compact disc in Japan (Sony, SRCS-9431).
  7. Re-packaged with A New World Record + Discovery on 3CD in October 1995 (Sony, 64813).
  8. Re-released on expanded, remastered compact disc on May 23, 2006 in the US (Epic/Legacy, 94278-2) and in 2006 in Japan (Epic, MHCP-1096) with 4 bonus tracks.

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