There have been many ELO collections over the years -- some exhaustive, some not -- so it might initially seem that the 2003 collection The Essential Electric Light Orchestra is a little unnecessary, especially since the definitive 1995 double-disc set Strange Magic was still in print at the time of this release. This line of reasoning conveniently ignores the simple fact that not everybody needs two discs of ELO; some may prefer one career-spanning collection with all the big hits on one disc, which is precisely what this is. Given its hits-oriented nature, it's inevitable that some great songs are missing and there are, including such early masterworks as "10538 Overture" and "Showdown," as well as fan favorites like "Boy Blue" and "Four Little Diamonds." But, if you care enough to care that these songs are missing, you won't hesitate to buy Strange Magic. If you just want "Can't Get It Out of My Head," "Livin' Thing," "Mr. Blue Sky," and "Don't Bring Me Down" along with other big hits, this suits the bill almost perfectly (the one quibble being that it would be nicer to have chronological order instead of this jumble, but this is enjoyable all the same).
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AllMusic Review by Stephen Thomas Erlewine