Released: April 1978
Chart Peak: #1
Weeks Charted: 77
Certified 8x Platinum: 11/7/84
Someone once described that great avatar of the Fifties, Marilyn Monroe, as a great big melting banana split -- in other words, a glorious, delectable mess. The same description aptly fits the new original-soundtrack recording of Grease just out on the RSO label. It drips with such currently hot box-office names as John Travolta (he sounds just barely okay in such things as "Sandy" and "Greased Lightnin'," but I'm sure his fans will forgive him) and Olivia Newton-John (who adds her expected maraschino touch to such immortals as "Look at Me, I'm Sandra Dee" and "Hopelessly Devoted to You"). On the plate surrounding them is an assortment of sugar cookies: Frankie Valli singing the title song; Sha-Na-Na lumbering through "Hound Dog," "Tears on My Pillow," and several others; Cindy Bullens on "Freddy My Love" and a duet with Louis St. Louis in "Mooning"; and even good old Frankie Avalon singing "Beauty School Drop-Out."
This frolic about and ode to one of the most boring generations in American history has been knocking them dead for several years now on Broadway, and, from what I hear on this album, I have a feeling that the film will be one of the blockbusters of the year. Even if (as Simone Signoret titled her autobiography) Nostalgia Isn't What It Used To Be, there is still an enormous amount of simple-minded fun left in this hallelujah to a recent past. And, under the musical supervision of Bill Oakes, the whole score jumps out at you twice life-size so that something such as "Rock n' Roll Party Queen," performed by Louis St. Louis, becomes a sly mockery of itself by reason of the totally uncalled-for grandiosity of the presentation.
Looking back at that era in my personal life, all I seem to remember is that Pontiacs were designed to look a lot like poor Jayne Mansfield; that there were a lot of tasteful tsk-tsks about Elvis; that Sinatra began to record some of the best things he (or any other American popular singer) has ever done; and that I tried greasing my hair back but the pompadour kept caving in on me, so I looked like Peter Lorre after a Channel swim. Grease brings all those bland, dull years back with an entertaining whoosh of excitement that was never there in reality. Believe me, the Fifties were a lot tamer than his humorously lively, high-spirited album would lead you to believe. But, then again, no one ever got to see those two Thirties tots, Ginger Rogers and Fred Astaire, doing the waltz from Swing Time in and out of a bread line either. So I guess pure entertainment calls for a certain suspension of disbelief, wouldn't you say?
- Peter Reilly, Stereo Review, 8/78.
The Sha Na Na cuts document the group's deterioration from an affectionate, phonographically ineffective bunch of copycats into a repellent Vegas oldies act. The Casey-Jacobs stage songs are entertaining and condescending takeoffs on '50s readymades, a little too good for Manhattan Transfer. And the updates provided for the movie by the Stigwood combine -- Valli's "Grease" (written by Barry Gibb) and Travolta and Newton-John's "You're the One That I Want" -- are two of 1978's better hit singles. That's probably how they should be bought, too, but this is far from a disgrace. C+
- Robert Christgau, Christgau's Record Guide, 1981.
Sure, this disco-era ode to poodle skirts and greaser chic is hopeless kitsch, a pale imitation of '50s rock, featuring Sha Na Na's mauling of "Hound Dog." But original songs like "Summer Nights," "You're the One That I Want," and the title track are tuneful fun. For a generation young enough not to know better, these songs epitomize the blissful innocence of childhood in the '70s.
-Entertainment Weekly, 2001.
Grease will always be the word for hopelessly devoted generations of girls who wore out their record players partying with their own Pink Ladies to this soundtrack. A young, sinewy Travolta in tight pants, Olivia Newton-John singing like a bird and best thing Stockard Channing make pop culture history as they whisk us away to the '50s teeny bopper days. The high-camp classic boasts summer-loving hits that will be on karoake playlists until the end of time. * * * * *
- Zagat Survey Music Guide - 1,000 Top Albums of All Time, 2003.
Impressario Robert Stigwood was the man with the Midas touch in 1978. Saturday Night Fever was followed into the charts and movie theatres by his next project Grease. The musical had already established itself as a Broadway smash, but its transfer to the big screen with starring roles for John Travolta and Olivia Newton-John took it to an even higher level of popularity.
The movie version added four new songs that became the bedrock of its soundtrack. They included the John Farrar-penned "You're The One That I Want" (the eighth best-selling sngle of all time with over 1.8 million sales), which, alongside the original scores's "Summer Nights," became worldwide duet smashes for the film's two main stars. The Bee Gee's Barry Gibb penned the movie's them song, which sent Frank Valli to number one in the US for the first time in nearly 16 years. The album was Number One in the US charts for 21 weeks and spent 18 months in the Top Forty. In the UK sales were almost as impressive. Grease spent 12 weeks at Number One and nearly a year in the charts.
As of 2004, Grease was the #15 best-selling album of the 70s.
- Hamish Champ, The 100 Best-Selling Albums of the 70s, 2004.
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