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PopEntertainment.com > Reviews > Record Reviews > Olivia Newton-John

MUSIC REVIEWS

Olivia Newton-John-2 (Festival/Mushroom)

Lately in Europe, there have been several slightly-past-their-prime artists who have done all-duets projects to show that they still have some hipster cred.  Probably the best of these was Tom Jones' Reload, in which he proved he could get the kids like Barenaked Ladies, Robbie Williams, Natalie Imbruglia and the Pretenders on board, and still do a brilliantly up-to-date dance jam like "Sex Bomb."  Lulu went a slightly different route with Together, inviting along acknowledged superstars like Paul McCartney, Elton John and Sting to prove that she may not have had a hit since 1981, but the big guns are still out there waiting for her. 

Now for Olivia Newton-John's duets album, she has mostly drawn from a pool of musicians from her native Australia.  Well, in a perfect world, 2 may do a lot of things for Newton-John's career, but one thing it will never do is restore hipness.  Several of the musicians she's invited along have had many hits, but none of them have been cool in years, if ever.  The likes of Richard Marx, Michael McDonald, Darren Hayes (former leader of Savage Garden) and Tina Arena have been having their own career problems, so it's hard to believe the world has been waiting to hear these duets. 

Too bad, some of the songs are pretty damned good.  She does a stomping rock duet with country superstar Keith Urban on "Sunburned Country."  Hayes and Newton-John sound wonderful on "Lift Me Up," which could become an AC smash if it gets the proper promotion... which it won't.  Also sounding wonderfully contemporary is "I'll Come Running" with Aussie thrush Arena, though perhaps their voices sound a tiny bit too much alike. 

The lovely "Never Far Away" with Richard Marx would have been a number one single in the 1980s, but it'll be lost in the shuffle today.  "I Will Be Right Here" with David Campbell is a sweet ballad that sounds like the showstopper for a Broadway spectacular that hasn't been written yet.  "Bad About You" (with Billy Thorpe) is a pretty good honky-tonk jam. 

Studio created duets with two late friends/mentors are sort of odd ducks, though...  "I'm Counting On You" with Johnny O'Keefe is a just lovely (if completely dated sounding) fifties love jam, but song & dance man Peter Allen's Aussie-country lament "Tenterfield Saddler" seems an odd choice, both of song and of partner (I assume it's Olivia's payback for him writing one of her biggest hits, "I Honestly Love You.")  The album closes out with a hidden bonus track... a luscious bossa nova version of another of Olivia's past smashes, "Physical." 

2 is a very nice album by one of the world's most underrated pop singers.  The shame of it is, I can't see that many people who are not already Olivia's fans buying it.  (10/02)

Jay S. Jacobs

Copyright 2002 PopEntertainment.com. All rights reserved. Posted March 23, 2003.

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Copyright 2002 PopEntertainment.com. All rights reserved. Posted March 23, 2003.