The soundtrack to the musical rollerskating extravaganza of a film, Xanadu, is one of my favorites, even though the film is only mediocre. It features music from one of my favorite bands, Electric Light Orchestra, as well as vocals by the golden voice of Olivia Newton-John.
The Xanadu Original Motion Picture Soundtrack did far better than the film for which it was created. Four of the songs on the album hit the number one spot on music charts in four different countries. The album hit number one on seven different charts. Needless to say, the album is awesome. Because I like pretty much every song on the album, I will go over each one individually.
“Magic” is definitely the most popular of the songs on the soundtrack. It hit the number one spot on four different charts and stayed on each for weeks. The beat is almost slow, and Newton-John’s beautiful voice hits all the right notes. It is an easy-going love song that is pleasant to enjoy any time.
Many younger people now will be unfamiliar with Cliff Richard, Newton-John’s partner for the duet “Suddenly”. Richard has won over 100 awards over his career (22 years at the time this album was originally released, nearly 60 years as of 2015), and his voice is instantly recognizable by music fans from the 60s, 70s, and 80s. Paired with Newton-John, he creates an easy sound that fits like a silk glove. Smooth.
Out of all the songs on the Xanadu Original Motion Picture Soundtrack, “Dancin'” is my least favorite. I enjoyed parts of it, and I thought the juxtaposition of 1940s big band music and 1980s in-your-face punk rock from The Tubes was an interesting feature. Overall, I didn’t enjoy it very much, but fans of the 1980s American punk scene may enjoy it. It is definitely an unusual song.
The slow beat of the love song “Suspended in Time” works well with the soft vocals from Newton-John to create a dance-worthy song. She hits the high notes, and does so with a gracefulness that doesn’t grate. I thought this song did an excellent job highlighting the strengths of her voice, and doing so while creating an endearing feeling throughout the piece.
Gene Kelly really shines in his duet, “Whenever You’re Away From Me”, and Newton-John has a great voice for big band music. Every time I hear this song, I can see Kelly and Newton-John dancing in his old club. Fans of big band music will love this song as it fits right in with performers such as Louis Armstrong, Benny Goodman, Glenn Miller, and Duke Ellington.
Of all the songs by Electric Light Orchestra, “I’m Alive” works better on the album than in the film. The scene in which it is used is somewhat goofy and cheesy, but the song itself highlights several of the keyboard techniques for which ELO is known. That said, it is the weakest of ELO’s songs on the Xanadu Original Motion Picture Soundtrack.
The next song, “The Fall”, is pretty standard ELO fare, with the music sounding very similar to many of their other songs and not really stretching their music. Something which attracted me to ELO originally was their talent with lyrics, and “The Fall” showcases this talent. I am always a sucker for a good story.
“Don’t Walk Away” will forever be linked in my mind to the animation sequence in the film. I am a huge fan of Don Bluth’s animation, and his animation worked together with this song really well. The lyrics drew me into the song, and the music was truly magical. Jeff Lynne’s vocals really make this song a true winner.
The excitement and energy in “All Over the World” practically bubbles through the speakers, from the music as well as the lyrics. This song sounds like an 1970s anthem, and it would be at home on any Bee Gees album. It has the true “classical music married to rock” sound for which ELO became famous. This scene in the film really showcases Gene Kelly’s acting abilities, and the music only enhances that.
The title song, “Xanadu”, is the upbeat theme song from the film, and the only song on the Xanadu Original Motion Picture Soundtrack to feature both Newton-John and ELO. The tune and lyrics are catchy, and do a great job wrapping up a stellar album. I think it’s time for me to go and listen to the album again. And dream of Muses…
1. Magic (Olivia Newton-John)
2. Suddenly (Olivia Newton-John, Cliff Richard)
3. Dancin’ (Olivia Newton-John, The Tubes)
4. Suspended in Time (Olivia Newton-John)
5. Whenever You’re Away From Me (Olivia Newton-John, Gene Kelly)
6. I’m Alive (Electric Light Orchestra)
7. The Fall (Electric Light Orchestra)
8. Don’t Walk Away (Electric Light Orchestra)
9. All Over the World (Electric Light Orchestra)
10. Xanadu (Olivia Newton-John, Electric Light Orchestra)
Release Date: August 1980 (USA and UK)