April 9, 2018 Juliana Hatfield – Juliana Hatfield Sings Olivia Newton-John (Album Review)
Ladies and gentlemen, one of the Indie Pop darlings of the 1990s is paying tribute to one of the beloved Pop songstresses of the 1980s! The result is a forthcoming full-length covers album. Is that not doubly heavenly? So, are you ready to get physical?
In the 1980s, one of the female artists who made the Pop music scene energetic was Olivia Newton-John, whose string of hit singles in that decade included the Electric Light Orchestra-collaborative piece “Xanadu,” the 1983 Two of a Kind movie theme song “Twist of Fate,” and the early-morning song “Physical.”
Obviously, Newton-John had influenced Juliana Hatfield immensely, enough for the American singer-songwriter to come up with a full album of her re-imaginings of select songs by the 1970s-originating British-born Australian singer. In fact, in an interview in 2007, Hatfield cited Newton-John as one of her primary musical influences.
Born on July 27, 1967, Hatfield was the leader of the ’90s-peaking bands Blake Babies (“Until I Almost Died”) and The Juliana Hatfield Three (“Spin the Bottle”), as well as a frequent collaborator of fellow American Alternative Rock icon Evan Dando and a member of his band The Lemonheads (“Bit Part”) during its heyday in the 1990s. As a solo artist, she was also quite prolific, having released 14 studio albums, from 1992’s Hey Babe to last year’s Pussycat. Now, only a year has passed, Hatfield is unleashing again another bunch of fruits of her passion – the said Newton-John tribute album.
Scheduled to be released on April 13, 2018, on American Laundromat Records, Juliana Hatfield Sings Olivia Newton-John opens with her ’90s Alternative Rock-stylized, Beatlesque rendition of the originally soulful ballad “I Honestly Love You.” In the ensuing “Suspended in Time,” Hatfield stepped on her guitar’s noise pedal a bit more forcibly, recalling her sour-sweet styling in her early songs such as “Universal Heart-Beat,” in which she seemed possessed by J Mascis of Dinosaur Jr. (“Feel the Pain”).
Apart from the inevitable Alternative Rock sound of the guitar tracks, “Have You Never Been Mellow?” maintains the original’s melodic propensity and emotional sentimentality; Hatfield’s silky, Twee-Pop voice sounds fey on top of the song’s overall wiriness. The slow Rock stomper “A Little More Love” follows in the same mélange of noise and melody, and then “Magic” retains the same ol’ mesmerizing soulfulness of the song.
“Physical” conjures the same familiar image of Newton-John in bandanna and leg warmers, but whose face is heavily made up and leotards ripped and tattered; this is Hatfield paying paean as well to her Grunge roots. “Totally Hot” is another rockin’ fuzzy track; it will fit well onto a playlist of Pop Rock songs that includes Heart’s “Barracuda” and Joan Jett & the Blackhearts’ “I Hate Myself for Loving You.” Then there is the bluesy, spacey, and starry-eyed trek to the countryside of “Don’t Stop Believin’.” Hatfield then goes full-on Country Folk with “Please Mr. Please” – certainly rustic and nostalgic.
One of Newton-John’s most popular songs, “Hopelessly Devoted to You” is almost untouched and unchanged, maintaining its vibes of twinkle-eyed teenage romance. Another faithful rendering is the gloriously beautiful “Xanadu;” complete with the New Wave-inspired synthesizer melodies, this is a guaranteed DeLorean experience!
Hatfield’s delight shines brightly as daylight as she delivers “Dancin’ Round and Round” virtually effortlessly and in a loose and unconstrained manner. Finally, she concludes her Newton-John moment with the upbeat Indie Rock version of “Make a Move on Me.”
The 1980s and the 1990s may be both heralded as prolific and proficient ages of music in terms of outputs and stylistic diversity. Taking this into consideration, Hatfield’s homage to Newton-John is a completion of a circle. It is, therefore, a doubly worthy contribution to the 2010s own streak of musical greatness that is surely to be hailed in the decades to come. CrypticRock gives Juliana Hatfield Sings Olivia Newton-John 5 out of 5 stars.
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