Olivia Newton-John

1980: MCA MCAD-31110

  1. Landslide
  2. Stranger’s Touch
  3. Make a Move on Me
  4. Falling
  5. Love Make Me Strong
  6. Physical
  7. Silvery Rain
  8. Carried Away
  9. Recovery
  10. The Promise (The Dolphin Song)

I have enjoyed this album for years…had it on vinyl, in fact (which is good because the cheapo CD release didn’t include liner notes, so I can consult the LP for details and lyrics). I don’t remember which track it was that first got me interested in it but I do recall the time some prime-time TV network aired the video album for its U.S. debut and the early-teenage me saw that startling and unexpected end of the video for “Physical”…and I said to myself “god DAMN!” when I saw those hot musclemen heading off to the showers arm in arm. Having confessed that terrible tidbit, I’ll bring things up to the present by noting that I actually get a big kick out of the title track even today…it’s so tongue-in-cheek and teasing/teased that it’s hard not to smirk all the way through it, plus which it’s catchy as all hell.

But really for me the album’s standout track is the restless “Recovery,” with its very odd chord patterns and chorus harmonies delivered by a calm and almost galloping beat and reinforcing the troubled reflection of the lyrics. (It’s also interesting to compare it to its original version, by songwriter John Farrar, who sings backup on it here as well as playing various instruments. Olivia’s version is superior, largely because of the range of vocals on the chorus, but that Farrar himself is part of the reason for that just makes this a track more worthy of repeated study.)

The opening track, “Landslide,” brings back unfortunate memories of 1980 and Reagan’s election, but it’s a fine counterpart to the title song and makes for excellent strut material…also great on headphones cranked as loud as it can go so you can really feel the whooshing of the tom-tom triplets. It has some very curious chord changes that somehow find their way back to where they need to be at various points of intersection. It may have a significant amount of synthesizer use, more or less of the style of the day, but it also thumps and rocks along surprisingly well, and god knows Olivia can rip the rough edge of her voice appropriately at such times and then turn around and coo sweetly again.

I like “Silvery Rain” most of the time, but on occasion it seems just too topically “important” to listen to without rolling my eyes. Really only “Love Make Me Strong” and that godawful closing track mar this album, although I guess “Falling” can either work for you or make you retch at its cloying sweetness (ditto “Carried Away”).