“Olivia” (Pye International NSYL 28168, £1.99). Since Olivia has made her name as a maker of glossy take-it-or-leave-it singles, which leave little margin for error, this, her second album comes as a major surprise.
It’s ambitious, worldly, riddled with imperfections, often breathtakingly beautiful and sometimes diabolically bad. I love it, even though there’s quite a lot to forgive. “Living In Harmony” is just about ‘the worst piece of catawauling cacophony you’re ever likely to hear; her latest single, “Just A Little Too Much,” has no business to be here at all and “What Is Life” also seems oddly out of place. The arrangements by Bruce Welch and John Farrar are often much too heavy-handed, but, all in all, there is so much flashed with brilliance that it’s easy to shrug off the blemishes.
“Angel Of The Morning” has already been exquisitely sung by at least two other artists, but Olivia gives new dimensions to the song and makes a masterpiece of it. She starts in a worldy-wise fashion, becomes in turn fragile, embittered and sexy and leaves you with a pouting, coquettish plea which (if you happen to be a bloke) leaves you weak at the knees and gasping. It’s magnificent.
Her voice is a lot more powerful than of yore and she handles the strong builder, “If We Only Have Love,” with an authority that would rival Bassey at her best. She makes a lovely job of Don McLean’s “Winterwood,” deliciously slurring the, lyrics in a manner very reminiscent of Marianne Faithfull (whatever happened to her much-heralded album, by the way?). “Changes,” the B side of Olivia’s, current single, is the first of her own compositions she’s recorded. For those that don’t already know, it’s a sad, haunting little song with more than competent lyrics and a strong melody line-the sort of thing people get very nostalgic about.
In complete contrast, she really gets her tongue round the lyrics of “Why Don’t You Write Me,” which she takes at a smart pace, rasping out the words with funny, angelic little “oooos” interspersed. Her delivery of “Mary Skeffington” is beguilingly gauche. She makes a lovely, lazy song of it, effortlessly sliding from the top notes down to the hook line very effective.
Even after only one hearing, her album left me elated and feeling really happy for Olivia. This should silence the knockers once and for all.