Saturday, 27 July 2019

The Electric Light Orchestra - Face The Music (1975)

You're walking meadows in my mind....


Released September 1975

Running time 36.22

Although The Electric Light Orchestra's trademark orchestrated sound is still present on this album, it is not nearly as dominant as on their previous album Eldorado, or indeed on their first three proggy offerings. Composer Jeff Lynne was definitely finding his pop ears and this album laid down the foundations that the following year's New World Record would really develop. ELO's status as a chart band and one looking for mass appeal truly began here. It was their first album to go platinum.


1. Fire On High
2. Waterfall
3. Evil Woman
4. Nightrider
5. Poker
6. Strange Magic
7. Down Home Town
8. One Summer Dream                                            

Fire On High begins with a minute and a half of synthesised and sampled sound effects, before some huge drums and guitar kick in, giving us a mock-classical, grandiose symphonic piece. By three minutes, it brings in some razor sharp acoustic guitars, almost Tubular Bells-style, accompanied with some big Queen-influenced drum crashes, Brian May guitar and wailing female choral backing vocals. As instrumentals go, it is entertaining enough, I guess. ELO always liked an instrumental or two, so it is no surprise that it opened the album. Time for some Lennon influence by now, surely? We get that with the typically ELO Lennon-esque ballad Waterfall, Jeff Lynne's reedy, slightly whiny  voice backed by those big ELO strings - cello, violin and double bass to the fore.

ELO were beginning a run of quality singles now and Evil Woman was one of those, - a slightly funky and catchy number backed by some clavinet runs. It contained a few echoes of 1973's Showdown. It also has some excellent string and keyboard passages. Nightrider has a beguiling beginning before it breaks free into some typical ELO string-backed rock, full of the sort of quasi-Beatles circa 1967 influence that Lynne had long specialised in. The chorus refrain is very catchy, again. Lynne's ability to write a pop song was developing at a pace.

Poker is a madcap, frenetic pace rocker full of chunky guitar riffs and proggy synth runs. Strange Magic was the album's other single, and, while not as big a hit as Evil Woman it had a mysterious, synthy hook that took it into the charts' lower reaches. Down Home Train is a strange one, ELO go vaguely country with some hoedown-style fiddle and Lynne contributing a nasally, upbeat vocal. For some reason the song has a brief flash of Dixie near the end. One Summer Dream is a peaceful, reflective ballad with a laid-back beginning that morphs into a mid-pace rock song with some powerful drums. It is a good song to end on.

Overall, it was a short, but consistently pleasing album. I like it a lot more than many of their other albums (I am quite harsh on ELO albums). On here they managed to combine their Beatles-ish and orchestral backing with a clear pop sensibility that would prove to be extremely successful over the next few years.