Face the Music [Expanded Edition]

by: Electric Light Orchestra

Face the Music was sort of ELO's return to a more basic sound after the ornate (and highly commercially successful) experimentation of Eldorado, and that's what's on display on this remastered edition as well -- everything is in high relief and all of the sound richly detailed, but it's the core band sound that stands out most, amid the rich, multi-layered production on "Fire on High" and "Waterfall." With some layers of compression and the limitations of a previous lackluster digital transfer removed, Jeff Lynne's voice now sounds almost sweetly textured on the latter number, and that points to one of the most important benefits of this kind of upgrade -- yes the mixes are made more transparent and the instruments more vivid along with everything else, but one of the subtler aspects is that the nuances of the singing, and whatever warmth there is in a voice, even in one as highly processed as Lynne's, can be heard in some of these settings, it's brought out, and that's as important in the listening as the removal of any noise or compression. Even a piece as familiar as "Evil Woman," which has been played and heard as much as any tune ELO ever cut, achieves a bracing freshness in these circumstances. What's more, the volume on the playback of this CD is something that one will have to monitor very carefully -- the louder parts of this disc could make one a real nuisance in an apartment building, even one with thick prewar walls and floors; not that the softer, more lyrical strains of "One Summer Dream" don't benefit also, but those won't break your lease. The bonus tracks are a little leaner here -- the "Fire on High Intro" is more a curiosity piece than anything else, whereas the stripped down mix of "Evil Woman" deserved an airing long before this; it's still the song, and even still the record, but with the basic elements moved to the fore, and in all likelihood it could have been about as big a hit as the more lushly finished version that was issued -- by itself, it's worth the price of the CD. There's also the U.S. single mix of "Strange Magic," to fill in that picture, and an instrumental mix of "Waterfall" to close out this special edition of the original album. The notes are thoroughly detailed and informative, and it's difficult to imagine any ELO fan missing out on this edition of Face the Music. ~ Bruce Eder

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