Electric Light Orchestra - Face the Music

Electric Light Orchestra
Face the Music


First Appeared in The Music Box, October 2006, Volume 13, #10

Written by John Metzger


Rushed to completion in the wake of its landmark outing Eldorado, Electric Light Orchestra’s (ELO) fifth studio effort Face the Music was a little disappointing. Although an operatic introduction combined with several between-track orchestral interludes gave the collection the illusion of an overarching thematic structure, the overall affair was decidedly less cohesive than its predecessor. Its songs, too, largely were inferior.

Part of the problem with Face the Music was that, in order to meet commercial demands, founder Jeff Lynne was stretched too thinly as he pushed himself to write new material in the brief moments of downtime in Electric Light Orchestra’s rigorous touring schedule. As a result, aside from the hits Evil Woman and Strange Magic, the album was filled with compositions that either didn’t realize their full potential or were stretched beyond a reasonable limit. There’s little doubt, for example, that the opening instrumental Fire on High packed a dramatic punch. Yet, in overstaying its welcome, it inevitably was turned into pretentious filler. Similarly, Lynne’s attempts to match the eclecticism of Eldorado resulted in the uncomfortably ineffective country-flavored Down Home Town as well as Poker’s awkward mash-up of punk-ish fury and Led Zeppelin’s Kashmir. Tellingly, in crafting ELO’s subsequent studio endeavor A New World Record, Lynne plucked the better moments from Waterfall to sculpt the far superior Telephone Line.

Recently remastered, Electric Light Orchestra’s Face the Music has been augmented with a quartet of bonus tracks, including an instrumental arrangement of Waterfall, the edited version of Strange Magic that was released as a single, and a skeletal incarnation of Fire on High. Rounding out the new collection is a simplified mix of Evil Woman that not only beats the more familiar, string-laden rendition that appeared on the album but also highlights how self-indulgent the band had become. While Face the Music may have achieved platinum-level sales, the outing as a whole hasn’t aged well, and it also remains too uneven to be considered one of ELO’s finer efforts. starstarstar

Face the Music is available from Barnes & Noble.
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1 Star: Pitiful
2 Stars: Listenable
3 Stars: Respectable
4 Stars: Excellent
5 Stars: Can't Live Without It!!


Copyright © 2006 The Music Box