ELO's smart blend of pop and rock with modernly orchestrated classical music flourished throughout the '70s and '80s, since their sound was one of a kind. Plush arrangements that drowned themselves in bright synthesizers and vibrant guitar gave way to a brand new type of music, giving the Electric Light Orchestra a distinguished setting atop the vast rock & roll mantle. Strange Magic is a two-CD set of their most illustrious songs from their lengthy career. Every one of their charted hits, except three, appear here, leaving out "I'm Alive," "All Over The World," and the famed "Xanadu" with Olivia Newton John. These deletions aside, this generous 29-song compilation is a splendid cross-section of the group. The first disc is highlighted by the eight-plus minutes of "Roll Over Beethoven," which combines their trademarked classical and rock sound, and the guitar driven allure of "Ma-Ma-Ma Belle" showcases their edginess. ELO's most gracious offering, the beautiful "Can't Get It Out of My Head," appears here as well, with its grandeur stemming from its exquisite string work. The synth-saturated "Strange Magic" is one of their most colorful songs, and "Evil Woman" has Jeff Lynne showing off his concealed yet masterful voice. The second disc begins to show their drift into disco, with the keyboards front and center on "Shine a Little Love" along with the computerized texture of both "Turn to Stone" and "Sweet Talkin' Woman." The wispy synthesized tinkle of "Confusion" is a nice addition, bringing their domination of electric music to its full capacity. ELO's glide into the '80s found them playing more rock-infused music, relying on the keyboards a little less. Songs like "Hold on Tight," with its slippery rhythm, and the '60s-tinged sound of "Rock 'N' Roll Is King" proved that Lynne could pump out amiable rock tunes that befriended radio in a new decade. Strange Magic sums up this innovative group's musical career with an abundant amount of hits, bettered only by the box set.
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AllMusic Review by Mike DeGagne
Track Listing - Disc 1
Track Listing - Disc 2