The copy we are selling is similar to the one pictured above.
Side One: Mint Minus Minus
Side Two: Mint Minus Minus (often quieter than this grade)
- An outstanding copy of Face the Music, with solid Double Plus (A++) sound from start to finish
- This copy has real depth to the soundfield, full-bodied, present vocals, plenty of bottom end weight, and lovely analog warmth
- You probably know most of these songs, even if you don't recognize the titles (Waterfall, One Summer Dream)
- 4 stars: "The soulful 'Evil Woman' was one of the most respectable chart hits of its era, and one of the best songs that Lynne ever wrote (reportedly in 30 minutes), while 'Strange Magic' showed off his writing in a more ethereal vein."
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Nobody seems to have noticed -- at least I can find no evidence for anyone noticing, using a google search -- that the song Fire on High, which opens side one of this album, is directly lifted from the opening song on Goodbye Yellow Brick Road, Funeral for a Friend.
He owes a lot of his sound to The Bee Gees as well as The Beatles, another thing about his music that nobody seems to notice.
But that takes nothing away from the fact that he is a consummate craftsman of catchy pop songs, the kind that get stuck in your head and make your day brighter than it would otherwise have been.
There are many fine examples of these kinds of songs on this very album. The first three (out of four) tracks on side one are all very strong: Fire On High, Waterfall and Evil Woman. On side two all the songs after Poker are very strong: Strange Magic, Down Home Town, and One Summer Dream.
That makes this a fairly consistent ELO record. Not quite the equal of A New World Record but not that far behind it either.
What outstanding sides such as these have to offer is not hard to hear:
- The biggest, most immediate staging in the largest acoustic space
- The most Tubey Magic, without which you have almost nothing. CDs give you clean and clear. Only the best vintage vinyl pressings offer the kind of Tubey Magic that was on the tapes in 1975
- Tight, note-like, rich, full-bodied bass, with the correct amount of weight down low
- Natural tonality in the midrange -- with all the instruments having the correct timbre
- Transparency and resolution, critical to hearing into the three-dimensional studio space
What We're Listening For on Face the Music
- Energy for starters. What could be more important than the life of the music?
- Then: presence and immediacy. The vocals aren't "back there" somewhere, lost in the mix. They're front and center where any recording engineer worth his salt would put them.
- The Big Sound comes next -- wall to wall, lots of depth, huge space, three-dimensionality, all that sort of thing.
- Then transient information -- fast, clear, sharp attacks, not the smear and thickness so common to most LPs.
- Tight punchy bass -- which ties in with good transient information, also the issue of frequency extension further down.
- Next: transparency -- the quality that allows you to hear deep into the soundfield, showing you the space and air around all the instruments.
- Extend the top and bottom and voila, you have The Real Thing -- an honest to goodness Hot Stamper.
All the copies we played in our shootout were mastered at The Mastering Lab, some pressed here in the states and some pressed across the pond. We could detect no consistent difference between the imports and domestics; both were a mixed bag, no surprise there. (Eldorado is the same way we've found. Wish we could find a killer copy to offer our ELO fans but such a record has eluded us to date.)
For Face the Music they're pretty much the ones we look for on any good rock album: energy, clarity, presence, whomp factor, dynamics, etc., with one important quality moving higher up the list than would normally be the case: texture. If the strings are smeary and too smooth, lacking texture and harmonics, most of what's fun about this music goes right out the window.
As long as the sound is RICH and TUBEY. That is Jeff Lynne's signature sound. The copies that don't have the kind of rich, smooth, classically British sound -- think Moody Blues -- may be clear and energetic, but at a deeper, more fundamental level they sound weird and just plain wrong.
Igor Stravinsky said to an author of his Three Songs by William Shakespeare, in which he epitomized his discovery of Webern’s music: “A good composer does not imitate; he steals.”
Mint Minus Minus is about as quiet as any vintage pressing will play, and since only the right vintage pressings have any hope of sounding good on this album, that will most often be the playing condition of the copies we sell. (The copies that are even a bit noisier get listed on the site are seriously reduced prices or traded back in to the local record stores we shop at.)
Those of you looking for quiet vinyl will have to settle for the sound of later pressings and Heavy Vinyl reissues, purchased elsewhere of course as we have no interest in selling records that don't have the vintage analog magic that is a key part of the appeal of these wonderful recordings.
If you want to make the trade-off between bad sound and quiet surfaces with whatever Heavy Vinyl pressing might be available, well, that's certainly your prerogative, but we can't imagine losing what's good about this music -- the size, the energy, the presence, the clarity, the weight -- just to hear it with less background noise.
Fire On High
Down Home Town
One Summer Dream
Electric Light Orchestra's more modest follow-up to Eldorado is a very solid album, if not as bold or unified. It was also their first recorded at Musicland in Munich, which became Jeff Lynne's preferred venue for cutting records.
At the time, he was also generating songs at a breakneck pace and had perfected the majestic, quasi-Beatles-type style (sort of high-wattage Magical Mystery Tour) introduced two albums earlier. The sound is stripped down a bit on Face the Music, Louis Clark's orchestral contributions generally more subdued than on Eldorado, even when they compete with the band, as on "Strange Magic."
The soulful "Evil Woman" was one of the most respectable chart hits of its era, and one of the best songs that Lynne ever wrote (reportedly in 30 minutes), while "Strange Magic" showed off his writing in a more ethereal vein. "One Summer Dream," which is written in a similar mode, also has a touchingly wistful mood about it but is a somewhat lackluster finale compared to the albums that preceded and followed this one.
The requisite rock & roll number, "Poker," is a quicker tempo than anything previously heard from the band, the guitar is pumped up louder than ever. And "Down Home Town," an experiment in achieving a country & western sound, is fresh at this point and more interesting than the equivalent material of Out of the Blue.
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