Friday, February 26, 2016

Olivia Newton-John - Come On Over

This month (February 29th) marks the fortieth anniversary of Come On Over, the sixth studio album from Olivia Newton-John. This 1976 release spent twenty-four weeks on the US Billboard Album chart, peaking at number 13. It also went to number 49 in the UK, number 30 in Canada, number 29 in Australia, number 12 in New Zealand, number 2 in Japan and on the US Billboard Country charts.

Side one begins with a cover of Dolly Parton's signature hit "Jolene" from 1973. As a Japan only single, it peaked at number 11 and helped spur the album's success in that country. Newton-John's version has a slightly quicker tempo to it over the original, and the arrangement makes it stand on its own.

The ballad "Pony Ride" features a simple piano accompaniment that compliments Newton-John's heartfelt vocals well.

The title track "Come On Over" was penned by brothers Barry and Robin Gibb of the Bee Gees; it first appeared on their 1975 album Main Course (click here for that review). Newton-John's version was released as a single, peaking at number 55 in Australia, number 23 on the US Billboard Hot 100, number 22 in Canada, number 5 on the US Billboard Country chart, number 3 in New Zealand, and number 1 on the US Billboard Adult Contemporary chart. For me, the original is still the best though Newton-John's version is pretty good too.

"It'll Be Me", written by the album's producer John Farrar, has a funky pop/rock groove to it. I have always liked this side of the singer as it shows she could easily transition to other genres.

Next up is a version of the traditional English folk song "Greensleeves" with a new adapted arrangement by Newton-John herself.

A cover of "Blue Eyes Crying in the Rain", a country classic first recorded by Roy Acuff in 1945. Other who have covered it include country greats like Hank Williams, Elvis Presley, Slim Whitman, Gene Vincent, Conway Twitty and Willie Nelson. What I like here is the spin coming from a female singer's viewpoint.

Side two starts with "Don't Throw It All Away", a song with a 60's Brit-rock throwback sound to it at the beginning before it rolls right into a more country lane.

"Who Are You Now?" was co-written by Steve Lawrence; his version was originally featured in the 1973 movie Hurry Up, Or I'll Be 30, the third movie in which actor Danny DeVito appeared. It is a light ballad about someone trying to come to terms with a former love's new behavior.

"Smile For Me" was the title track hit for Lynn Anderson in 1974. We start with a simple piano accompaniment with added percussion and guitars on the second verse.

"Small Talk and Pride" continues with the slower tempo ballads. This one is a snapshot of a relationship in severe decline, when two people have grown apart and have nothing left to offer one another.

"Wrap Me In Your Arms" keeps up the slower, swaying rhythms that are dominating this second half of the record. At this point, I would have like a bit more of variety like the first side had given us.

The album closes with a cover of the Beatles' hit "The Long and Winding Road" from 1970. This happens to be one of my favorite songs by the Fab Four, so I always enjoy hearing different performers tackle it. Newton-John does a good job in that category.

I did not own Come On Over back in the 1970's; I was spending my allowance on mostly candy and comic books at the time. I did add it to my digital music library back in 2012 though. As a long time fan of Newton-John's music, this one falls right into that musical wheel-house of country-pop that she dominated so well. Twelve tracks was a bit much though; I would have liked to have seen it cut down to a strong eight or nine to keep things tight and flowing.

For more from Olivia Newton-John, click here.

1 comment:

HERC said...

I was unfamiliar with this album and several other early ONJ albums when I found her first ten CDs cheap at an upscale thrift shop here in town not too long ago.

While I knew her bigger country crossover hits courtesy of the radio and the legendary Cow Talk Jukebox, the one thing that struck me most about those first ten albums (1971-1977) was the number of cover versions of familiar songs she included on nearly every album. Her first seven albums are not on Spotify so they were mostly new to me except for the hits.

One of those albums that is on Spotify but I hadn't bothered to check out was 1977's Making A Good Thing Better and the cover song I discovered on that one is track two "Slow Dancing", a cover of the Jack Tempchin song originally recorded by his band The Funky Kings and made famous by Johnny Rivers. Olivia's version features Jeff Porcaro on drums and Jay Graydon on acoustic guitar. I like Oliva's take on the song better than the Funky Kings but not as much as Johnny Rivers.

Sorry I went off-topic.

Pretty cool that Come On Over is a leap year album. Thanks for pointing that out.