Discussion in 'Comeback corner' started by ysaferrer, Sep 4, 2011.
Oh. For any potential new listeners, listen to the songs before experiencing her music videos.
Anyone know where I can legally download the Magic album in the US? The iTunes store only has a partial album.
iTunes and Amazon both have the 21-track version, which was the only one released in the US.
iTunes' version of the 21-track version is missing the first 5 songs. I previewed the Amazon tracks and the quality was kind of shitty; was it not remastered for this album?
Just downloaded the 40 track Gold album. Shame it's missing her flop 90s single I Need Love but other than that it's a great tracklisting. I'm not really familiar with her 70s stuff so this will be good for discovering that. I Honestly Love You is rather lovely but other than that it's all new to me. I love her 80s synthy stuff, Twist of Fate being my favourite Olivia song, and it's good to finally own (Livin' In) Desperate Times.
Is the Soul Kiss album any good? I've heard it's a bit of a curio, almost a concept album with her playing various parts. But are the songs good?
Christ, you're right. What is the point of that? I sent a note in case it's just an oversight, but it's probably something more sinister than that. Odd.
If you love the 80s material, then you will enjoy 'Soul Kiss'. It was the brainchild of MCA Records and Olivia's management to up the ante from 'Physical' and continue marketing her in a more provocative way. Helmut Newton's sleeve photos, include an artsy topless shot on the back cover, are very striking, but don't look anything like Olivia. I think she acknowledges that it was a misstep now, but even at the time the writing was on the wall. The recording process was frustratingly long, and after the fact it became clear that her songwriter/producer John Farrar was simply burnt out after 15 years of working almost exclusively on Olivia's records. (In that time period, he had produced or co-produced a whopping 11 studio albums and two soundtracks for her). Certain songs from the 'Soul Kiss' sessions were re-recorded and remixed many times because nobody involved was happy enough with them and even at the very last minute one song was dropped and replaced with the title track which went on to be the lead single. It's hardly an indication of a potential chartbusting LP when a song has to be recorded as the lead single because there are no other obvious contenders...
Some of the material is quite mature (eg. the title track and a glacial arrangement of Gerry Rafferty's 'The Right Moment') and those cuts have aged particularly well. The other songs are very much of their time production-wise, but there are still some lovely touches from John Farrar. The lyric of 'Queen Of The Publication', from the perspective of a celebrity-stalking journalist, prefigures the media culture of the noughties in a way that is quite uncanny, and John uses a typewriter as the basis of the rhythm for the song - very clever. 'Driving Music' features some cool, experimental approaches to sound effects too. On the downside, the duet with Carl Wilson is a uninspired doo wop homage and sequenced in the midst of a very synth-driven album sounds terribly out of place, and by the time you get to the partially spoken word narrative about being taken advantage of by a doctor (!) you either have to give up or give in. There are some genuinely great tunes in amongst the sometimes laboured lyrics and 'characters' the songs invite Olivia to play, and her voice is at its most athletic. Two decades later when she was reflecting on her albums, Olivia chose 'Soul Kiss' as one of her underrated because she enjoyed how challenging the songs were. It certainly stands alone in her catalogue. If you are already a fan, embrace 'Soul Kiss' in all its proto-Madonna glory and you will no doubt find some Popinjustice in the way it has been maligned over the years.
Thanks for your very interesting thoughts on Soul Kiss! It certainly sounds intriguing. You had me at proto-Madonna! I will download tonight, I'm on a real Olivia binge at the moment.
Check out the video for the second single 'Toughen Up' while you're at it. Along with 'Soul Kiss', it's the only song from the album to get a video treatment with a proper concept (three others were filmed, but they are essentially performance videos). It's arguably the clearest vision of what the album could have been with the right marketing approach; it is completely tongue-in-cheek and self-aware, with Olivia playing both the experienced teacher of a woman's liberation group and the naive Sandy-esque ingenue. There's even a direct nod to 'Grease' with the video offering an revisionist ending to the drive-in scene between Sandy and Danny! Olivia was never a great actress on screen in her movie roles, but she is quite extraordinary in many of the videos Brian Grant directed for her.
I didn't know Toughen Up was from Soul Kiss! I fell in love with that song after seeing the video on her greatest hits DVD. I'm more keen to check the rest of the album out now.
As you seem to be an authority on Olivia can you recommend any of her other 80s albums to me? Is there anything that sounds like Twist of Fate/(Livin' In) Desperate Times? I've only ever been a casual fan before now with the one disc Definitive Collection best of and the Grease and Xanadu soundtracks but I'm keen to explore more (I'm not much of a country fan sadly).
I finally was able to download the Magic album -- Twist of Fate, Magic, and Xanadu are my favorites.
Unfortunately, things slowed down a lot for Olivia in the 1980s. The birth of her daughter shifted her priorities and she was quite happy to semi-retire. (Luckily for us fans, she began working consistently again in the late 90s and has been more active in the last 15 years than she was at the peak of her success!) 'Twist Of Fate' and '(Livin' In) Desperate Times' were done with David Foster for the soundtrack to 'Two Of A Kind' and they don't really have any peers in the rest of her catalogue from that time; the other two ONJ songs on the soundtrack are ballads. Her 80s discography runs:
1980 Xanadu (soundtrack)
1982 Olivia's Greatest Hits Vol. 2 (1978-1982 compilation with two new songs 'Heart Attack' and 'Tied Up')
1983 Two Of A Kind (soundtrack)
1985 Soul Kiss
1988 The Rumour
1989 Warm And Tender
'Physical' is essential as there are lots of great album tracks to discover there outside the two big hits. You have probably heard/seen all of them on the 'Video Gold' DVDs. You also must hear 'Totally Hot', the studio album released after 'Grease', which is pretty much universally held as her best.
I am very partial to 'The Rumour' as well. It marked the real break with John Farrar after the underwhelming response to 'Soul Kiss' and she worked with a producer called Davitt Sigerson. It is a much more organic sounding album than the synth-heavy 'Soul Kiss', but still with all the bombast of the sound that was favoured in the late 80s. Olivia is once again in fine voice, with a slightly deeper tone than a decade earlier, and the album represented the first time Olivia made major contributions to a full LP as a songwriter outside of just one or two songs. The brief during the album's conception was to write and sing about issues affecting a woman in her 40s, so she covers topics such as the environment, AIDS, gender equality and divorce (a motif Olivia would explore time and time again). 'The Rumour' functions as a precursor to the sort of music she would make in the 1990s and beyond - lyrically, if not musically. In many ways, it's a more accomplished album than 'Soul Kiss' even if it's not quite as entertaining.
MCA made a big effort with the initial promotion by financing another television special/'video album' a la 'Physical' with HBO (other than 'The Rumour', none of these videos were released on the 'Video Gold' DVDs unfortunately - probably a licensing issue). Designed to capitalise on Olivia's Australian roots and the 1988 bicentennial of Australia, the special was called 'Olivia Down Under' and saw Olivia travel across the country and introduce some Australian locations and characters to an international audience. Director Brian Grant was back at the helm, which meant the quality of the videos was top notch. It is caught somewhat awkwardly between being a straight promotion for the album and a sort of tourism advert for Australia, but it's nice that the album received that level of attention initially. It didn't translate into sales unfortunately and 'The Rumour' barely cracked the Top 70 on the Billboard charts in America.
If you become particularly interested in ONJ, her pre-'Grease' albums are still worth checking out. She seems to have picked up the 'country' tag to encompass all of her early material, but precious little of it was really wedded to that style. There are pop roots all throughout those 1970s albums, even if the hits from that era don't always suggest it. Her 1980s material is probably going to be much more instant for a Popjustice reader, but there's still a lot of earlier recordings worth investigating. Here are a selection of album tracks that you might like to have a listen to. The quality is not great on YouTube (the actual recordings are much clearer and with more dynamics), but at least it gives you a taste:
1977 Sad Songs
1976 Compassionate Man
1975 Sail Into Tomorrow
1975 And In The Morning
1972 Mary Skeffington
1971 If I Gotta Leave
Wow. This is why I (still) love Popjustice. I learned a lot, Guyhawke! Cheers.
Too sweet - thanks WhipperSnapper!
For anyone interested, here is one of Olivia's most recent recordings - a wonderfully strange, electronic cover of 'Bow River', an Aussie classic by Cold Chisel. It was produced by her nephew Brett Goldsmith as part of a string of sessions he did with her in hotel rooms for a decade whenever she would come back to Australia on tour or promotion. It was finally released to coincide with the start of her Las Vegas residency last year. It's been nice to hear Olivia make music on her last few releases that is more uptempo and current. Her voice has obviously deepened a lot as she has grown older, but it's still in good shape. Brett had some lovely words to say about working with his aunt:
'Like most artists, Olivia knows exactly what she wants... We’re talking about a singer with absolutely perfect pitch... When you’re cutting vocals with Olivia Newton-John, you’d better be on your best behavior. She’s a serious singer'.
Earlier this year, Olivia completed an Australian arena tour with fellow Aussie music legend John Farnham; for non-Aussies, he is perhaps best known for singing the duet 'Dare To Dream' with her at the Sydney 2000 Olympics opening ceremony. The 'Two Strong Hearts Live' album is out now, collecting all the duets they performed as well as two of Olivia's seven solos ('Xanadu' and 'I Honestly Love You').
It really is a wonderful recording; my only gripe is that the songs fade out whenever tracks have had to be cut from the show, which makes for a slightly more disjointed listening experience. This is a minor quibble though. Sony Music have done a stellar job with the packaging, boasting a 14-page booklet with a glowing essay recounting the key moments in the show for those who didn't attend and beautiful photography that captures the scope of the staging in the arena venues.
The album is expertly produced by Chong Lim, who was the musical director for the tour, and John Farnham's longtime producer Ross Fraser. The quality is quite incredible, arguably Olivia's best sounding live recording. The orchestra makes such a huge difference to the songs and it's especially noticeable on 'Xanadu' which after years of hearing it played by Olivia's 6-piece band suddenly takes on a whole new life. It finally has the widescreen quality that matches the original studio recording with ELO. The intimate tracks work just as well though, and the duet version of one of John's 90s hits 'Burn For You' remains the highlight just as it was in the show.
Fingers crossed for a DVD that allows us to experience the concert in full. The footage is obviously ready to go, as John Farnham's Facebook team uploaded this video of the opening song to celebrate the album's release.
The reviews have been glowing, as they were for the tour. Aussie music journalist Cameron Adams gave the album a four star rating and it was listed as 'top pick' for the week. The album is currently sitting at #8 on the Australian iTunes albums charts after only one day of sales, so hopefully this bodes well for a strong chart placing next week.
Xanadu is such a bop.
This may be sacrilege to Olivia purists but I love this reworked version of Magic re-titled You Have To Believe, produced by Dave Aude, with newly written verses and vocals by Olivia's daughter Chloe Lattanzi. Released today.
Any new Olivia is good Olivia for me. It's just a one-off project intended to help celebrate the 35th anniversary of 'Xanadu' and it certainly generated a lot of press to that effect. It did get to #2 on the overall iTunes video chart when it was released there last week, ahead of the likes of Taylor Swift. Not a bad effort at all. It's so great to see Olivia in a 'proper' music video again. She looks absolutely incredible - hard to believe she is a month away from being 67 years old.
In other news, the DVD of the 'Two Strong Hearts' tour with John Farnham was released yesterday in Australia. The album was #1 for three weeks, giving Olivia the distinction of having Top 10 albums in Australia in the 1970s, 1980s, 1990s, 2000s and 2010s. A television special of highlights from the show is being broadcast on Channel 9 on Sunday night.
I'm sorry but that is horrendous…
Her daughter looks like a blow up doll and has nowhere near her mother's vocal talent.
But it's the production on the song that I can't stand.
I'd love to see Olivia make a retro Disco sounding album with real instruments similar to what Jimmy Somerville just did.
Hi there, an Chris and just wanted to say that I think Living In Desperate Times is one of the most criminally underrated songs of the 80s if not for all time! I must have played it on a loop on YouTube after first seeing it on that Sky Arts interview she did with director Brian Grant a few Years ago (which was a very good watch). Am not really into Olivia as such, but she does deserve more credit than what she gets.
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