Juliana Hatfield

unnamed(2)To her faithful and longtime fans, Olivia Newton-John is legendary because the great pop/country songs she recorded, and of course her starring turn in Grease. Yet to hardcore rock listeners or even the critics, she’s not really taken seriously as an artist because her music is generally considered adult contemporary, which carries an unfairly label. And maybe that’s why Juliana Hatfield’s latest covers record, a tribute album to the singer, will somehow remedy that. The alternative rock musician’s lovingly-made record mainly focuses on Newton-John’s most popular and commercial period from the late ’70s to the early ’80s—the crossover period in the Newton-John’s career—spanning from Totally Hot to the soundtracks to Grease and Xanadu to the multi-platinum Physical. Pretty much all the big hits are represented: among them “Magic,” “Physical,” “I Honestly Love You,” “A Little More Love,” and “Have You Ever Been Mellow.” The tracks carry Hatfield’s sonic rock imprint – her voice, aggressive guitar playing, some driving drumming, and the indie rock production– as examples, But for the most part, the covers stay faithful to the spirit and melodies of originals, although one could hear Newton-John’s signature ballad I Honestly Love You in a totally different light lyrically through Hatfield’s interpretation. And there are deep Newton-John cuts that Hatfield also unearths on for this album that don’t often get a lot of airplay these days, like “Make a Move on Me,” “Totally Hot” and “Dancin’ Round and ‘Round.” There’s no trace of irony or condescension in these new interpretations that would’ve been so tempting for a cynical artist to entertain—rather these are really sincere and heartfelt performances. Let’s face it: Newton-John’s songs are great and deserve a wider appreciation among the rock community, and Hatfield’s record is a step forward to acknowledging that.

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