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Progressive Rock CD Reviews

Electric Light Orchestra

Face the Music

Review by Gary Hill

It might be obvious, but this has always been one of my favorite albums from Electric Light Orchestra. The opening instrumental is one that’s well known throughout a lot the populace. There are some other well-known cuts, too. It’s all quite effective and still holds up well. It should be noted that I reviewed a couple of these songs before on a best of album review. For the sake of consistency, those song reviews have been copied or adapted for use here.

This review is available in book format (hardcover and paperback) in Music Street Journal: 2014  Volume 6 at lulu.com/strangesound.

Track by Track Review
Fire on High

Dramatic, and rather creepy symphonic elements play, while a backward tracked spoken voice is heard. “The music is reversible, but time is not, turn back, turn back, turn back.” Weird music continues to grow in a way that’s still quite entertaining and compelling. It’s quite symphonic, Then it powers out into the familiar music pattern. It’s distinctly ELO styled rock music. Some great melodies emerge over this backdrop, but then it gets fast paced and some violin solos over the top. The piece continues to evolve from there in great symphonic prog fashion. This instrumental is a very powerful number. It’s a great way to start the set in style, too.

Waterfall
This is such a beautiful song. There are Beatles-like elements to the melodies. The symphonic musical treatments are powerful. The vocal arrangement, with its multiple layers adds a lot to the proceedings. It’s just such a perfect example of all the best things about ELO. The construction of the song is complex, yet it seems to glide effortless. The wall of sound they create is so compelling.
Evil Woman
A classic hit from the band, this is a good piece of music. It’s catchy and yet still has some meat on its bones. I’ve always liked this a lot, and the orchestral instrumentation adds quite a bit to this tune.
Nightrider
This one starts with more symphonic elements before working out into a rocking kind of song. This is also very much trademark ELO. It’s what they always did so well, combining a killer rock tune with orchestral elements. It’s also what made them so great.
Poker

Except for the symphonic elements at the start, this almost feels like a power pop tune in the intro. The guitar sound is surely keeping with that. As it builds out the keyboards over the top bring more of that progressive rock element. This is a real powerhouse that does a great job of merging those sounds. There are some great shifts and changes, and there’s a drop to purely symphonic progressive rock mid-track.

Strange Magic
Here’s one that could be argued to go a bit over the top. Frankly, I’d say this song, despite the sometimes overly lush arrangement (or perhaps because of it) works quite well. It’s a personal favorite from the band.
Down Home Town
Here we get a full on symphonic ELO treatment of hoedown music at least early. The vocals do a great job of bringing in a country twang. Still, there are plenty of ELO trademark sounds that emerge on this thing. It’s playful, energized and a lot of fun.
One Summer Dream
This one starts symphonic and then works out to a dreamy, Beatles inspired number. This is just such a piece of beauty. It’s smooth and satisfying. It’s a great way to end this.
 
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