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Electric Light Orchestra - Xanadu (with Olivia Newton-John) CD (album) cover


Electric Light Orchestra

Crossover Prog

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2 stars "Xanadu was Olivia Newton-John's follow-up to the massive hit Grease and was supposed to establish her as a bankable musical film star. It didn't quite happen that way, thanks to Xanadu's poor box-office showing and dreadful critical reception. There's little to recommend in this film, aside from the fact that it can be entertaining if viewed from a camp perspective." -- The All Movie Guide review

The name 'Xanadu' most likely makes us progheads think of the great Rush song, which was inspired by Samuel Taylor Coleridge's 1816 poem Kubla Khan; Xanadu is the name of the summer capital of Kublai Khan's dynasty. In the American musical fantasy film, Xanadu is a nightclub. I haven't seen the film, but as a 10-yr old kid I couldn't have avoided hearing the No. 1 hit title song multiple times. Coincidentally Electric Light Orchestra was probably the first band whose album [A New World Record, 1976] had made a strong impression on me as a child. I just fancied adding and writing about this single after hearing 'Xanadu' on radio yesterday, played for the memory of the actor and singer Olivia Newton-John who passed away a week ago; personally I don't much care about the song, or Newton-John.

The complete Xanadu soundtrack album -- reviewed by surprisingly many here -- is actually split between her side (songs were written by her long-time producer John Farrar) and ELO's side, the latter including the collaborative title hit. The song is recognizibly early 80's ELO all the way, with the exception of the lead vocals. You could imagine the song being sung by Jeff Lynne in which case it surely would have been a hit nevertheless, if not quite as big as it was with Olivia Newton-John as the star. Extremely catchy and melodic, it has the word HIT stamped all over it. But despite being very accessible to the masses, there is the distinctive orchestral production belonging to ELO and no one else.

The B side song 'Fool Country' (written by Farrars) was not included on the soundtrack album even though it was featured in the film, in the nightclub grand opening segment following the movie title track and before its reprise. It's a short, fast-tempo country rocker.

'Xanadu' was deservedly a big hit, but two stars will do for this single, and I'm addressing both of my stars mainly to Jeff Lynne as a songwriter and producer.

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Posted Monday, August 15, 2022 | Review Permalink

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