Xanadu: A Place Where Few Dared to Go

© 1980 Universal Pictures

© 1980 Universal Pictures

“In Xanadu did Kubla Khan, a stately pleasure-dome decree: Where Alph the sacred river ran, through caverns measureless to man, down to a sunless sea.” – Samuel Taylor Coleridge

On August 8, 1980 the musical fantasy Xanadu starring Olivia Newton-John, Gene Kelly and Michael Beck opened in theatres nationwide. All summer long, I was filled with anxious anticipation for Olivia Newton-John’s feature film follow-up to the mega-hit Grease. While I enjoyed a good movie, my attention was mostly focused on the musical soundtrack of the upcoming film, which I’d read was to feature an entire side of ONJ tunes, plus half an album’s worth of tracks by Electric Light Orchestra. By this time, I’d long been an Olivia fan, but now I was at the height of my fandom for ELO. Therefore, the Xanadu soundtrack was a highly coveted treasure chest of jewels by two of my favorite artists.

I remember watching an episode of the Midnight Special hosted by ONJ, that featured her performing her current hit single “Magic” (the lead-off track from the soundtrack), as well as a mesmerizing rendition of the yet to be released ballad “Suspended in Time” (now my all-time favorite ONJ track), as well as showing an enticing clip of Xanadu. After seeing that, I was totally captivated. [Read Full Feature]

Electric Light Orchestra: Secret Messages (35th Anniversary Reissue)

Electric Light Orchestra’s tenth studio album, Secret Messages, was originally conceived as a double LP, but the group’s record company was initially unwilling to release Jeff Lynne’s classic offering in its entirety. Therefore, when Secret Messages reached record bins in 1983, it was a shorter, abbreviated version containing only 10 of its original 18 tracks. Its original running time (76 minutes) was reduced to a mere 46 minutes.

Now, for the first time, Secret Messages has been reissued as a double vinyl LP and digital download in its nearly original full-length version. Although most of the previously deleted tracks have appeared over the years on various compilations and remasters, this anniversary release is sequenced in its intended running order, albeit without the inferior, yet often requested elusive unreleased track “Beatles Forever.” However, previously deleted tracks “No Way Out,” “Endless Lies,” “Buildings Have Eyes,” “Mandalay,” “After All” and closing track “Hello My Old Friend” have all been reinserted in their proper places. Yet, it’s still beyond comprehension why the 39-second “After All” was ever deleted in the first place.

In its expanded form, Secret Messages clearly bridges the gap between ELO’s previous efforts and what eventually followed. Residual echoes of Time, as well as foreshadowed glimpses of Balance of Power are equally omnipresent throughout the double disc’s song cycle. Jeff Lynne’s three solo tracks for the film, Electric Dreams would easily fit amongst the track listing of Secret Messages. In fact, the soundtrack contribution “Video!” actually borrows elements from the aforementioned elusive “Beatles Forever.”

While Secret Messages formerly seemed somewhat unsatisfying in its abbreviated versions, it now feels like a complete and cohesive piece of work. This newly expanded edition not only feels more immersive, but also flows consistently better in its prolonged form. Previously, it played out like an unfinished concept album sorely lacking a proper climax. Undoubtedly, completists will continue to yearn for the unreleased “Beatles Forever,” but at least we now have an acceptable sonic blueprint of Lynne’s original vision.

Secret Messages is now available as a 2-LP gatefold set on 150-gram vinyl with digital download.

Guardians of the Galaxy: ‘Awesome Mix Vol. 2’

James Gunn has compiled another bang-up soundtrack for his highly-anticipated Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2. The upcoming space adventure is the latest entry in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, and the sequel to Gunn’s surprise summer blockbuster of 2014. Here again with Awesome Mix Vol. 2, the songs featured were precisely hand-picked by Gunn and strategically placed throughout the film, serving to underscore the script as a subtle, but dynamic cast of supporting characters. Awesome Mix Vol. 2 is an eclectic assortment of mostly well-known tunes, and happily in its own unique way, just as marvelous as its predecessor Awesome Mix Vol. 1, which went on to sell a whopping 2.5 million copies worldwide. The brilliant second soundtrack album includes Electric Light Orchestra, Cheap Trick, Parliament, Fleetwood Mac, as well as the amusing “Guardians Inferno,” featuring David Hasselhoff. [Read Full Review]