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Electric Light Orchestra - ELO & Olivia Newton-John: Xanadu (OST) CD (album) cover


Electric Light Orchestra

Crossover Prog

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3 stars REALLY: 2,55

The best songs on this CD have ELO's signature, the others can be disasterous (with a note of extreme demerit for "Dancin'" by Olivia Newton-John with The Tubes). It is not a true album by ELO, which you can unfortunately tell upon hearing it. This is a shame, because the songs by ELO are absolute masterpieces. I cite: "I'm Alive", "Don't Walk Away" and "The Fall" (in order of merit). As a result, this is not a disk to discard.

Report this review (#63860)
Posted Monday, January 9, 2006 | Review Permalink
3 stars Quite unbelievably, the soundtrack to this terrible film is actually worth buying. That's because it has five ELO tracks on it. They are very good tracks in the "Discovery"/"Time" style with "Don't Walk Away" being not only a beautiful song but a real highlight in their career. "I'm Alive" and "All Over The World" are energetic numbers with Lynne's usual, detailed production shining through, and "The Fall" is a good song too. The title track is well-known but can be rather tedious to listen to, mainly due to Olivia Newton John's shrieky noise (er, sorry, voice). The non-ELO tracks are not good unless you're into bad Broadway musicals. Which I'm not. Sorry.

Report this review (#68455)
Posted Sunday, February 5, 2006 | Review Permalink
1 stars The second low point of ELO's career was contributing to a disco soundtrack with Olivia Newton-John right in the middle of the "disco sucks" era. Although the songs ELO contributed weren't necessarily in the disco vein, they were sickly sweet while smelling of rotting cheese. Take the worst of Discovery and use them as backdrops for a film with a dreadfully stupid dialogue, a nonsensical plot, and hilariously bad acting. I'd rather spend all day reconstructing Webster's dictionary from a swimming pool of alphabet soup.

Albeit, some have admitted to a guilty pleasure in liking Xanadu. If you've never seen the movie before or listened to the soundtrack, and you're curiosity is tempting you, I'd recommend keeping some tranquilizers nearby just in case your guilty-pleasure neurons backfire on you and drive your brain into a world of collecting aprons and writing books that consist of nothing but page after page of dots.

Seriously, not a single note of progressive rock is available on this rather annoying soundtrack with the art deco cover. I can't even recommend this to ELO fans. Avoid at all costs. One star (less if it were possible).

Report this review (#69290)
Posted Monday, February 13, 2006 | Review Permalink
4 stars I wish I could give it a 3.5.

Having read the previous reviews, I am going to attack this from two different angles. ELO and non-ELO. Despite what people think of the movie, disco, and everything else, this is a pretty fair album/CD.

Non-ELO (rating 3): Suddenly by ONJ and Cliff Richard is a really nice love song. Put it on either of their solo albums and it probably would have been a hit single. Whenever You're Away from Me with ONJ and Gene Kelly is throwback to Gene's era. If you like that sort of music (and I do), it's a good song. Magic is a pretty good song, with the classic 80s sound. And Dancin' was interesting in that it combined a smooth song, with a "harder" rock song... I'm not overly fond of it, but it was a clever idea.

ELO (rating 4): While I much prefer the sound they had in the mid-70s with the classical instruments, there are a few really good songs produced after that era. Three of them are on this album! I'm Alive, All Over the World, and the soulful Don't Walk Away are among my all-time favorite ELO tunes.

Bottom Line: Buy it! There's a better percentage of good songs on this than on most of the rest in your CD collection!


Report this review (#81198)
Posted Thursday, June 15, 2006 | Review Permalink
Chris S
Honorary Collaborator
1 stars I am sorry but you have to truly be a Jeff Lynne completionsist to want to buy this album. It is terrible, I remember going to see the movie as a kid and I hated it all the way to the credits.Yes there a few good songs from Jeff Lynne under the ELO banner but the ONJ influence and prescence on the soundtrack sadly bores me to tears. Give me an Abba album anyday! It is music for a very flimsy film, nothing more than filler between commercial breaks. Avoid at all costs if you can.
Report this review (#101372)
Posted Saturday, December 2, 2006 | Review Permalink
2 stars I will only review the five songs in which ELO is involved. This one could not be worse.

"I'm Alive" is completely in line with "Discovery" : it is a mix between disco and poppish song (as one could find a lot on their previous and very average "Discovery"). "Inspiration" for this number is on par : boring to death. Press skip.

"The Fall" is a more traditional ELO song : Jeff has recovered his ability to create good pop and melodious tunes. It was about time (but do not expect a jewel). "Don't Walk away" is a nice pop and commercial ballad (although the choirs are quite dull and the orchestral arrangements a bit "too much"). It is my fave here, probably because it reminds me a bit of the 1974 period if you see what I mean.

"All Around The World" is of course very commercial (I remember having heard it a lot on the radio) but still an OK song. The title track, with Olivia Newton John on the vocals is not as bad as that : what worries me most are the backing vocals (not ONJ's voice). All in all, it is not as worse as one might expect. Of course, we are far from "ELO II" and "El Dorado" (but ELO will never again produce a record that come close to these masterpieces).

I would rate the ELO contribution to this soundtrack as two stars.

Report this review (#118429)
Posted Sunday, April 15, 2007 | Review Permalink
Easy Livin
Honorary Collaborator / Retired Admin
2 stars Gene Kelly's farewell. to prog?

By 1980, the Electric Light Orchestra's migration to a chart focused pop band was pretty much complete. Such was their credibility in chart terms that they were asked to write about half of the songs for the teen movie "Xanadu", a film very much in the "Grease" and "Saturday night fever" vein. The film is significant in Hollywood terms as it includes the final acting appearance of Gene Kelly. That said, and despite the huge investment it secured, it was a box office disaster.

To their credit, ELO simply created five songs which would have fitted in well on any of their own albums released around this time. "I'm alive" is an upbeat piece of stylish pop featuring all the usual ELO trademarks. "The fall" is in relative terms actually a bit adventurous with varying time signatures and all. It is still very much a pop song, but has a greater level of sophistication than is the norm for that genre.

"Don't walk away" is one of Jeff Lynne's fine ballads, with a suitably emotional vocal performance and a superb arrangement. "All over the world" reverts to the upbeat style of "I'm alive", the anthemic aspects of the lyrics guaranteeing it chart success. The album closes with the film's title track, an ELO song sung by Olivia Newton-John. Despite its origins, this is another fine ELO song which would have sounded good sung by either Lynne or ON-J.

The fact that four of the five tracks here were hit singles, as were a couple on the other side, gives a fair indication of what to expect from this soundtrack. It also confirms the quality of the music in pop terms, although admittedly most definitely not in prog terms!

The other side of this album consists of five songs written by Jon Farrar and sung by Olivia Newton-John. These are irrelevant in terms of this site, although "Dancin'" might be of passing interest as The Tubes duet with Newton-John on the song.

Report this review (#137617)
Posted Monday, September 10, 2007 | Review Permalink
Crossover/Symphonic Teams
1 stars If you didn't care much for ELO's Discovery album of 1979, you're not going to like the Xanadu soundtrack either. The movie was awful with a ridiculous storyline and mediocre acting. The soundtrack wasn't much better. ELO split this soundtrack with Olivia Newton-John (who sang the title song performed by ELO and written by Jeff Lynne), who has a wonderful voice, but not enough to lift this album out of mediocrity. It's entirely made of pop songs, most of them laughable at best, some notably disco-influenced. Newton-John's Magic is probably the only nice number on the whole soundtrack. There are no hints of prog rock anywhere. For completionists only. One star.
Report this review (#146542)
Posted Tuesday, October 23, 2007 | Review Permalink
3 stars I'm in a position for a strange position. Both parts of this album please me many and if you speak to me of this album only great words you will hear to go out from my mouth. But not for this fact this album deserve a high vow. In fact Jeff Lynne wrote 5 great song, some passed to the story. But John Farrar wrote another 5 songs not all good. But this album is only a soundtrack. So if "Don't Walk Away" is a great ballad, "Suddenly" is only a POP song. But I consider "Xanadu" only the soundrack of "Xanadu" and in this sense "Xanadu" is good.
Report this review (#155233)
Posted Wednesday, December 12, 2007 | Review Permalink
3 stars Olivia Newton-John is my dream when I was 15 years old (today is Halle Berry) and for this motive I bought this album in MC version. Ok, with Xanad¨ I discover ELo, a good band. But not totally Prog, for me. The two faces of Xanad¨ is the reflection of the two composer. Great the songs of Jeff Lynne; variable those to signature John Farrar. In fact if Jeff lynne think an ELO album, John Farrar think a great composition for the hosts, because the songs with the sole voice of Olivia are good. Another problem is the mentality of the songs: Jeff lynne is an English man and the songs are with English/ european mentality. John farrar wrote a typical American film songs. So with these introductions it is impossible to understand the real Xanad¨ value.
Report this review (#156531)
Posted Tuesday, December 25, 2007 | Review Permalink
3 stars Yes this album is mixed, but it is extremely melodious and pleasant on the ear. OK, the ONJ ballads are sometimes grim, but Dancin' is a cracker and the ELO stuff is brilliant. The title song is, let's not forget, ELO's only no. 1 song and it has a good melody. Most of the album is scarcely prog (ergo it's can't be a good addition to a prog collection), but as a crossover to the New Wave and synthesizer music of 1981's Time (one of ELO's best, IMHO), it can certainly hold it's head up.

I never saw the film (indeed I originally I had great trouble finding the album at all!) but, despite two cringing ballads (which you get used to after a while, let's be honest), listening to the album is scarcely a WASTE of 41 minutes...

Report this review (#162616)
Posted Monday, February 25, 2008 | Review Permalink
3 stars I've been criticized about my ELO reviews in the past. No doubt this review will be trashed as well, because I'm giving the Xanadu soundtrack 3 stars. It's a good album. Don't expect any prog here, but expect some quality music.

Frankly, the real star of this album isn't even ELO. It's Olivia who has the best songs, and they are some beautiful ones. Suspended in Time is an amazing track, with a poignant vocal performance, great lyrics and a nice arrangement. Suddenly (the duet with Cliff Richard) is nearly as good, while the Gene Kelley duet is fun if not scintillating. Magic indeed suffers from too much disco influence, while I don't like Dancin' at all. Still with two great tracks and a couple decent ones, Olivia Newton-John really shows her stuff on this album.

So, on to the prog (quotation marks intentional) half of this album. ELO doesn't fare quite as well here. The namesake single that was a result of their collaboration with Newton-John suffers the curse of being infected with disco. Don't Walk Away (probably the best ELO contribution) is a passable ballad in the vein of what they will do on Discovery but rawer (which is a good thing.) We could say the same thing about The Fall and I'm Alive, I suppose, except that they aren't really ballads and they aren't up to snuff like Don't Walk Away. Which leaves us with All Over The World. It's not quite as good as Don't Walk Away, but it's a polished production that sounds as good as anything that ELO was doing in this era. If it weren't for the disco beat, this would feel right at home on Out of the Blue.

Anyhow, if you are listening to this album for the prog, God help you. If you are listening to this for good music, though, this is a more than acceptable album. I have to give it three stars, because it's really good. Be warned though. It's Olivia Newton-John's contributions that lift this above two stars.

And yes, I'm well aware that I'm rating this above No Answer and Face the Music.

Report this review (#173896)
Posted Saturday, June 14, 2008 | Review Permalink
2 stars Probably I'm not original but I'm (secure) sincere. Because you see... This album is not so bad. Hmmm... Probably the ELO songs are the best songs in this album but it is true that too big is the gap between them and the songs of Olivia Newton-John. Also because ELO's songs are POP/ Prog but with great arrangements and Olivia Newton-Jones' songs have good melody but with no arrangements (also because these songs present very different styles, because of the guests).

''I'm Alive'', ''The Fall'', ''Don't Walk Away'' and ''Xanadu'' are good song, also Prog (or better... For Progsters). Vice versa ''Dancin''' and ''Whenever You're Away From Me'' are the worst songs of this album. But put the blame of the disaster to Olivia Newton-Jones is not right. Because I've the suspect that Jeff Lynne and John Farrar have composed 2 separate Eps... Without knowing what one did and what did the other writer. In this sense ''Xanadu (Original Soundtrack)'' is not a bad LP. It is true, however, that I judge the final result and this is not good.

Because of this sentence I think that 4 stars are good for ELO's songs and, vice versa, 1 star is good for Olivia Newton-Jones' songs. Also if it is true that if I think at 2 separate Eps my opinion would be different.

Report this review (#216940)
Posted Thursday, May 21, 2009 | Review Permalink
1 stars Only 5 of these tracks on the XANADU soundtrack are actually ELO songs. The rest is Olivia Newton John (forgive me for evev citing her name on this webpage). The 5 ELO tunes are weak, pointless, disco-pop. Worthless as anything more than catchy bubble-gum pop. Jeff Lynne can never be said to not have the ability to write a catchy tune. Nope. But on XANADU, they absolutely swim in sweetness and make the average listener cringe. This music is even worse than DISCOVERY, and that's saying something! Someone who wishes to own everything Jeff Lynne has ever done may want this piece of fluff- but not me. 1 star.
Report this review (#435669)
Posted Tuesday, April 19, 2011 | Review Permalink
Symphonic Team
2 stars This is a product of its time and will always remain a cult favourite of many who adored the Xanadu film. I saw the film and quickly erased it from my memory as a strategic move. It had some good songs and they are captured here. I bought the vinyl album back in the 70s when everyone seemed to own this and the radio was saturated with the content ad nauseum.

ELO's I'm Alive is a relentless blaster that opened the film on a very powerful note with rainbow streams coming from Olivia Newton John's skating figure. She was hot back then, vocally and physically, and the real drawcard to seeing the film at the time. Of course she voices some songs such as the killer radio staple Xanadu and sexy sultry Magic, one of her best in her lengthy career. Indeed she is given the best songs so do not expect this to have any prog at all.

ELO appear on All Over The World and Don't Walk Away and it is nice to hear their melodic harmonies as always but to get to them you will have to put up with a sappy ballad Suddenly, where ONJ duets with Cliff Richard, and there is even a duet with the songstress and Gene Kelly, a show tune number mind you with a tap dancing interlude. This is not my cup of tea and the vinyl album now gathers dust at the back of a huge pile, never to be disturbed again.

Report this review (#834127)
Posted Sunday, October 7, 2012 | Review Permalink
siLLy puPPy
PSIKE, JR/F/Canterbury & Eclectic Teams
3 stars This is the soundtrack that everybody LOVES to hate! It's admittedly the perfect recipe for the ripest stinkiest cheese this side of the French Riviera and I for one absolutely think the movie for which this soundtrack is supposed to represent is a big fat stinker indeed. It has been a very long time since i've seen the movie and I only remember that it was so very very bad that I will not be seeing it again while I am inhaling oxygen on this good Earth.

The soundtrack however isn't as bad as all that. Far from being a masterpiece it is not the total rubbish that it's made out to be. First of all it must be taken for what it is, namely a POP album. Although the Electric Light Orchestra is on here, put all notions aside that there is anything even remotely progressive and then, unless you are closed minded to pop music in general, you may find something to enjoy here.

I have never been the hugest fan of Olivia Newton-John but can't say she makes me want to vomit chunky puke either. In fact, I think some of the best stuff i've ever heard from her is on this soundtrack. The first track and huge hit "Magic" is a phenomenal pop song and perhaps my favorite track here is the duet of her with The Tubes called "Dancin." Basically she does a vocal jazz number part reminiscent of The Andrews Sisters and trades off with a rockin' part by The Tubes. At the end they come together and do their parts simultaneously. The ELO tracks are good catchy pop sounding like any others they did during their late 70s albums. Listening to this after many many years I have to say that I haven't changed my mind that this is hardly a throwaway.

Report this review (#1090107)
Posted Saturday, December 14, 2013 | Review Permalink
3 stars First and foremost, it should be made clear that Xanadu: From the Original Motion Picture Soundtrackáis not a prog-rock album. At all. It's really not even a "crossover prog" album. As siLLy puPPy and other reviewers have stated, this is a pop album, half of which is performed by the Electric Light Orchestra (ELO), a sometime semi-prog group. I'll also mention that although it was released in 1980, this is not a stereotypical eighties record; it's a big-production late-1970s album with live musicians, orchestral overdubs - - each and every one of the proverbial nine yards. Luckily for the producers, this (presumably) big-budget product was a hit, reaching #4 in Canada and the US, #2 in the UK, and #1 in Australia and several European countries. Furthermore, in the summer and fall of 1980, Xanadu spawned five top-twenty hits on the Billboard Hot 100 and six top-forty hits on the UK Official singles chart - - not to mention hundreds of thousands of copies in other countries.

One more bit of background: the first side of the album (not "Side One," but the "ONJ Side") is performed by Olivia Newton-John. Two of the five songs she performs solo; each of the others is co-performed with a well-known act. The "ELO Side" has four songs by ELO and one by ELO with lead vocals by Newton-John.

As is so often the case, the singles from Xanadu tend to be the strongest. Among the minor hits, ELO's "Don't Walk Away" and the Newton-John/Cliff Richard duet "Suddenly," both aimed at the adult-contemporary market, are decent tunes, although neither is among anybody's greatest or most-remembered hits. Two other ELO songs did a bit better on the charts: "I'm Alive" (#20 UK, #16 US) and "All Over the World" (#11,13), and both are fantastic pop-rock numbers. Among ELO's six US top-forty hits from August 1979 to 1980 (beginning with "Don't Bring Me Down"), these are easily the best. An added plus is that "I'm Alive" seems to relate specifically to the movie: it's said to underpin a scene in which ancient characters come to life.

The two biggest hits from Xanadu are also wonderful pop songs, and each relates to the otherworldly theme of the movie. "Magic" is one of Olivia Newton-John's absolute best songs (in my opinion only "Make a Move on Me" is better); its chart success (#1 for four weeks in the US and for two in Canada) was no accident. And someone should give John Farrar, who wrote and produced the song, a medal for the guitar part he plays beginning at 3:11 of the album version. Her follow-up single was "Xanadu," a #1 hit in at least eight European countries. I was a kid when it came out and I must have heard it a thousand times before I realized that it was, in effect, an ELO song - - down to Jeff Lynne's backing vocals and Louis Clark's orchestral arrangements - - with Newton-John singing leads.

Although it's not quite at the level of "Magic,"á"I'm Alive," or "All Over the World," my pet song on this album is "Dancin'," credited to Olivia Newton-John with the Tubes. Indeed, four members of that band are credited on the track: singer Fee Waybill, keyboardist Michael Cotton, and guitarists Roger Steen and Bill Spooner. Coming as it did after what many fans consider the Tubes' masterpiece Remote Control, "Dancin'" is probably seen as the beginning of the end of the group. But I love it. It's essentially a faux mash-up; first Newton-John performs a 1940s dance number; then the Tubes cut in with an opposing, then-modern rock song. Back to Newton-John, then back to the Tubes, and then both sections, revealed to be mating parts, are played simultaneously. Very clever.

Rating Xanadu has been tough. It has five very strong songs, and five ho-hum tunes. It doesn't especially hang together as an album, but many of the songs were obviously written expressly for the movie, which is something I appreciate.* I guess it's one good song short of a four-star album. But it's good. ELO fans should definitely have this one, as should fans of late-1970s / early-1980s soundtracks.


*I'm not saying I appreciate the movie, btw. I've only seen a few scenes and they're not too promising.

Report this review (#2278410)
Posted Wednesday, November 6, 2019 | Review Permalink

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