Sunday, November 17, 2013

Olivia Newton-John - Totally Hot

Welcome to another edition of Seventies Sunday.

Today, in honor of its thirty-fifth anniversary this month, we are giving a listen to the 1978 release Totally Hot. This was the tenth studio album for Australian-born singer Olivia Newton-John. The Platinum selling record went to number 30 in the UK, number 18 in New Zealand, number 9 in Japan, number 7 on the US Billboard Album chart, number 5 in Canada, and number 4 in Australia on the US Billboard Country chart.

Side one begins with “Please Don’t Keep Me Waiting”, the B-side to the second single. This mid-tempo plea to a lover opens with a mix of Michael Boddicker on the synthesizer and Jai Winding on the piano. I am not sure of the screams near the end; they sounded a bit strained and forced to me.

“Dancin’ ‘Round and ‘Round” was the B-side to the third single. It then was released as an A-side fourth single and charted at number 82 on the US Billboard Hot 100, number 29 on the US Billboard Country chart, number 25 on the US Billboard Adult Contemporary chart, number 21 on the Canadian Country chart, and number 7 on the Canadian Adult Contemporary chart. This one plays directly to Newton-John’s country roots.

“Talk To Me” was written by the singer. I like the straightforward aspect of this one; it feels comfortable and inviting.

The second single “Deeper Than the Night” hit number 74 in Australia, number 64 in the UK, number 18 in Canada, number 4 on the US Billboard Hot 100, and number 4 on the US Billboard Adult Contemporary chart. This one features a strong pop-rock melody to it that I always found appealing.

The piano ballad “Borrowed Time”, also written by Newton-John, was the B-side to the first single. Her vocals get a nice spotlight on this one about the other woman.

Side two opens with the John Farrar penned “A Little More Love”, the first single; it went to number 9 in Australia, number 8 in New Zealand, number 5 in Belgium, number 4 in Canada and the UK, and number 3 on the US Billboard Hot 100. This song has a really sexy side to it as Newton-John portrays a woman who is using her body to keep her man interested.

The mid-tempo “Never Enough” tells of a man working hard to make a happy home, yet he fails to realize it is not enough to keep his wife satisfied.

“Totally Hot”, the third single, only charted at number 92 in Canada and number 52 on the US Billboard Hot 100. This one was also written by Farrar. I like the funky grind to it that makes it a smoldering dance floor tune.

“Boats Against the Current” was the title track from Eric Carmen’s 1977 album. Newton-John cover its here as a lovely ballad about finding that inner strength to keep going on despite adversity. And, yes, there is a reoccurring theme of “Row Row Row Your Boat” in the piano chords.

“Gimme Some Lovin’”, the closing track, is a cover of the 1966 Spencer Davis Group tune. This version is lukewarm for me; it lacks the power of others that I have heard (including the original).

I owned a copy of Totally Hot on vinyl back in 1978, most likely gotten as a Christmas gift that year. I had enjoyed her earlier 70’s singles but my fan status was cemented after seeing her in Grease earlier in the year. I liked this record well enough, and it was good to revisit it again after all this time. I had certainly forgotten how many of the deeper cuts from this one were favorites of mine back then; I definitely need to fill in on those for my digital library.

For my review of the Grease soundtrack, click here.

For the 1980 film soundtrack for Xanadu which she also starred in, click here.

For 1981’s Physical, click here.


HERC said...

Talk about a descriptive album title!

Olivia has always been an awkward dancer - like HERC - but man she was something to behold. Her brief pirate look coincided with Adam Ant's.

There are wonderful things happening on "A Little More Love" HERC can only begin to describe: snaky guitar and angelic voices (Olivia overdubbed?) on the chorus. There is an extra level of enjoyment when this song is played in the night - kind of like Rod Stewart's "Passion".

She was on the way up after Grease, at least musically, as it was followed by this album, then the Xanadu soundtrack and then Physical and her Greatest Hits Vol. 2 album. She kept on recording but it wasn't the same after this legendary run.

Thanks, Martin.

Martin Maenza said...

Herc, I gotta agree - I too particularly enjoy this resurgence period of her career.

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Martin Maenza said...

Welcome, Rachelle. Thanks for reading and taking the time to tell me you like the blog.