Olivia’s Live Hits is a mixed bag of musical intentions. Olivia Newton John has enjoyed a great career of singles hits, albums, movie song tie-ins, and acting. On this collection of live songs, there are some that work brilliantly, and some that are just there. There are ten songs that run the distance of Grease classics, Top Ten hits, and popular selections. But I just can’t help but feel that while some of these do work quite well, there are songs here that lack the emotional intensity that mark the original recording.
The two Grease songs, “Hopelessly Devoted to You,” and “You’re the One That I Want” are two songs that are probably the most well known. Here, they are sung with gusto and pleasure making Olivia sound just as good now as she did when she first sang them. However, it with the Bob Dylan song, “If Not For You” that impacts me the most here. When I first became aware of Olivia Newton John, it was with this song. The original Olivia track has certain flair, a bit of magic if you will, that endeared her version of the song to me, so much so that I went and bought the Uni single as an avid 14-year old collector of music. It is this song that I first selected on this disc. It doesn’t fare as well as the Grease performances. It sounds tired and rushed here and, in fact, clocks in at less than 1:45.
The rest of the album does well enough making “If Not For You” my only big disappointment. There were periods of Olivia Newton John that didn’t appeal to me that includes “Xanadu,” and “Physical,” but I remember them well enough. Justice to those songs is, for the most part, served here. “I Honestly Love You” here has almost the same appeal that her original Peter Allen cover does, right down to the breathy chorus. Not all of her hits are included here but you’ll find the rest on the companion DVD of her live performance at the Sydney Opera House (where these tracks were recorded and selected from).
Fans are better served to pick up an originals ‘best of’ to get the songs found here and others. However, if you want to hear Olivia in a live setting, Olivia’s Live Hits does its job. The Grease live tracks are worth the album’s purchase all by themselves. Olivia understands that the delivery of the songs is just as important as the song is; I’m just sad that she couldn’t find the heart for the flawed live version of “If Not For You” on this album.