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BEST OF OLIVIA NEWTON-JOHN

Review by Ed Nguyen

Stars: Olivia Newton-John
Director: various
Audio: English PCM
Subtitles: None
Video: Color, full-frame
Studio: Universal
Features: None
Length: 17 minutes
Release Date: March 30, 2004

"Let's get physical, physical, I wanna get physical..."

Film ***

Anyone remember Olivia Newton-John?  She started out in the 1970's as a sweet and pretty country music star, winning a handful of Grammies along the way.  For many, she was the very personification of the girl-next-door.  However, towards the end of the decade, particularly after starring in the smash hit film Grease, she underwent a sultry image transformation from an innocent Sandra Dee type into a sexy pop star.  Many of her biggest hit songs came during this latter period of her career.

That brings us to this disc, the latest addition to the 20th-Century Masters DVD Collection.  This series offers a partial "best-of" compilation of any particular singer or band's music videos.  Other acts also available in this Universal music series include KISS, Kool & the Gang, and Donna Summer.  It's obviously a very seventies-oriented collection.  Anyway, for this disc, five of Olivia Newton-John's later songs have been selected.  Three of the songs come from the album Totally Hot (1978), with one from Physical (1981), and one from her Greatest Hits Vol. 2 compilation (1982).

Below is a list of the songs/music videos:

1) Physical - Shot on video tape, this music video looks rather corny (and even homoerotic) today, but the song itself is as good as ever.  Once, Physical even held the record for the most consecutive weeks at #1 on the Billboards singles chart.  This was coincidentally Olivia Newton-John's biggest smash hit.  The video is set in a fitness club, with Olivia Newton-John as a health instructor whipping some weight-challenged fellows into perfectly chiseled shape.

2) A Little More Love - This track is essentially a compilation of studio shots of Olivia Newton-John singing the song with scenes from the photo shoot for her Totally Hot album.  The song is fantastic and really shows off Newton-John's vocal range, plus she still has that girl-next-door quality about her in this video.

3) Deeper Than the Night - This track from the Totally Hot album follows the same visual style as the previous track; it mixes studio shots with shots from the album cover photo shoot.  The song is catchy with a slight country rock twang to it.

4) Heart Attack - A new song recorded for Greatest Hits Vol. 2, it has synthesized eighties-pop written all over it.  The music video was shot on video tape and has Olivia Newton-John in that weird, big-hair fashion that was such a fad back then.  On the other hand, the video also features the negligee-clad chanteuse walking around, napping on a bed, and being locked in a cage, so it isn't altogether so bad after all.

5) Totally Hot - The title track to the Totally Hot album, this video features Olivia Newton-John wandering around a city in a leather jacket and hot-pants.  From the looks of it, she could have just stepped off the set from the Grease finale, and in fact, this video obviously plays to that image.  It ends with the singer in a sizzling dance duet.  The song is infectiously catchy in a disco-lite sort of way and was the single that, upon its original release, signaled a new direction for the singer's music.

So, that's it - five early music videos to a selection of Olivia Newton-John's top hits.  It's not much, and at barely seventeen minutes, this EP-length DVD will be over before you can blink.  Still, if you're a fan of this wonderful Aussie pop singer, do give the disc a spin!

Video **

Music videos used to be photographed on video tape back in the early days of the format.  Frankly, those music videos typically look rather cheesy now, not to mention that video tape always seems to appear ghostly in transfers to the DVD format.  Fortunately, only Physical and Heart Attack were photographed on video tape, with the remaining songs coming from grainy and occasionally dusty film stock.  The picture quality is okay but nothing spectacular; then again, who really cares how it looks?  This is a music-DVD, and that is where the DVD really excels.

Audio ****

The audio is in a PCM 48Hz, 24-bit format.  Don't let that fool you, though, because at any volume greater than minimal, this DVD will blow out your eardrums.  Fortunately, the sound is well-balanced so the bass isn't overwhelming and the subwoofer doesn't decide to stomp all over on your guts.  That being said, the best way to listen to this DVD is to place the amp/receiver on a very low volume setting and then dial up to personal comfort.  The sound, needless to say, is quite phenomenal and really rocks, as should be expected for any audio-DVD.

Features (zero stars)

Well, there's nothing here.  You do get the option of listening to all the videos back to back or separately, though.

Summary:

Yes, there are only five songs on this compilation DVD, but it's very affordable and sounds fantastic.  If you're an Olivia Newton-John fan, this disc is definitely for you!