Friday, June 2, 2017

Electric Light Orchestra - Face The Music (1975)

“Face The Music” by Electric Light Orchestra (1975)

Release Date: September 1975
Produced by Jeff Lynne
Genre: Symphonic Rock, Art Rock
Label: Jet (UK), United Artists (US)
Chart Positions: #8 (US), #7 (Italy), #11 (Netherlands), #30 (Australia), #31 (Canada), #41 (Sweden), #251 (Japan)
Certifications: Gold (US, Canada)

Singles: “Evil Woman” #2 (France), #6 (Canada), #8 (Switzerland, New Zealand), #10 (US, UK, Ireland), #20 (Denmark), #21 (Netherlands, Norway), #23 (Australia), “Strange Magic” #10 (France), #14 (US), #20 (Canada), #38 (UK), #85 (Australia), “Nightrider” (No chart data)

ELO's fifth studio album, “Face The Music,” was released in 1975 and was the first to be recorded in Musicland Studios Munich, which was producer, songwriter, musician Giorgio Moroder’s studio. The band featured a new line-up with bassist Kelly Groucutt and cellist Melvyn Gale replacing Mike de Albuquerque and Mike Edwards respectively. New member Kelly Groucutt sang lead vocals on "Poker" and "Down Home Town" (while Lynne sang harmony) as well as one of the verses in "Nightrider." (Usually, Lynne sang all lead vocals.)


At the time of recording “Face The Music,” Jeff Lynne was generating songs at a breakneck pace. ELO's formula first jelled into a sleek hit-making machine with this album on which Jeff Lynne's producing chops first matched his songwriting prowess. Lynne and ELO were well on their way to becoming full-fledged superstars.

“Face the Music” begins with the minute-and-a-half intro of “Fire on High” containing everything from a chanting church choir performing Handel’s “Messiah” to a backward masking message courtesy of drummer Bev Bevan, who declares, “The music is reversible, but time is not. Turn back, turn back, turn back, turn back.” Along with similar uses of the technique sprinkled throughout the album, these reversed snippets were clearly a shot at allegations that Eldorado‘s title track included backward Satanic messages. Snippets of Messiah by Handel can be heard during the album opening as well.

It’s no secret that the biggest influence on ELO frontman Jeff Lynne was the Beatles. He created the group with the purpose of filling the void left in the wake of the 1970 breakup of the Fab Four. But Lynne went in the opposite direction of his idols; he initially focused on the experimental elements the Beatles tried out on their later albums and then built a collection of songs that made for a more streamline work deeper into the band’s career.

The first single “Evil Woman” was one of the most respectable chart hits of its era, and one of the best songs that Lynne ever wrote. He wrote the song on a piano at Musicland studios on the last days of recording, writing it with in 30 minutes. The line "There's a hole in my head where the rain comes in," was inspired by the Beatles song, "Fixing a Hole." Originally the song was slated as filler for “Face The Music” but ended up being released as a single and was the band’s first solid hit worldwide.

“Strange Magic” quickly followed “Evil Woman” onto the charts and was another big hit. The second single from the album showed off Jeff Lynne’s writing in a more ethereal and dreamy vein.

"Strange Magic" (1975)

“Nightrider” was the third single release and was a tip of the hat to Lynne's first major band, The Nightriders. Despite ELO's rising popularity, the song failed to chart. The song was also included as the B-side on ELOs 1977 US hit single "Do Ya".

“Fire On High” was played quite a bit on FM radio stations across the US that many thought it was single. The song has gone on the achieve notoriety and has been used numerous times as background "bumper music" for radio commercials and sporting events over the years. The song was the UK B-side to the band's 1976 worldwide hit single "Livin' Thing", issued in blue vinyl. It was also later included — in an edited form minus the backwards vocals — as the flip side of the United States hit single "Sweet Talkin' Woman" in 1978.

The dreamy ballad “One Summer Dream” closes the album with an ethereal emotion and beautifully sung by Jeff Lynne. An edited version of the song was used as the b-side to the 1978 hit single “Mr. Blue Sky.”

In the January 1, 1976 issue of Rolling Stone Magazine Charley Walers' review of the album appeared as follows:
Face the Music is more fine work from the Electric Light Orchestra, which rather quietly has evolved into a most consistent septet. Leader Jeff Lynne remains one of a few Sixties rockers who has developed a new and more adventurous style with a minimum of chaff in the process. In this setting he has successfully integrated a recognizable string trio (an achievement in itself) with his own melodic strings, producing a stately music without being stuffy or saccharine. Nor do the cellos and violin seem a mere afterthought. All eight compositions are strong and fully realized: "Poker" with its hard rock guitar explosions, the oddly workable C&W flirtation "Down Home Town" and an instrumental with lavish but spirited orchestration. The seven outdo themselves, however, on "One Summer Dream," a beautiful and evocative tune sung touchingly by Lynne. A trifle sentimental perhaps, but lyrically and musically, it displays more emotion (not to mention pure ability) than one ordinarily hears from a rock group. Most importantly the song, and the rest of Face the Music as well, reiterates that rock can be complex, ambitious and "arty," yet still remain rock. 

The following is Billboard Magazine review of "Face The Music": 
 Another beautiful set from the seven Brits who helped pioneer the merger of classical and rock on a mass basis. Divided fairly equally into smooth, flowing melodies fronted by equally relaxing singing and easy rockers, the guitar, vocals and writings of Jeff Lynne remain dominant. New to the group, however, is Kelly Groucutt, who handles bass and takes over on lead vocals from time to time. With a softer voice than Lynne's, Groucutt provides the balance that has been missed in past albums. Guitars, violins and cellos melt together easily under Lynne's production, and the unlikely combination works as well as anything the band has ever done. Musically, a truly beautiful LP. Best cuts: "Waterfall," "Evil Woman," "Poker," "Down Home Town."
- Billboard, 1975.
Electric Light Orchestra (1975)




Electric Light Orchestra + ELO

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