I was in college back in 1987 when Kylie Minogue had her first hit with “Locomotion,” which I remember dancing to on nights out. But after that, though I occasionally heard songs on the radio, I confess her music mostly fell of my radar. (I mostly listen to indie and singer-songwriter type music, with some classic rock, world music, classical, folk, jazz & blues in the mix.)
So, when I was offered a review copy of Kylie’s new album, The Abbey Road Sessions, I somewhat hesitantly accepted. But what piqued my curiosity was the intriguing concept – The Abbey Road sessions features 16 of her songs, collected throughout her long career, completely reworked, and performed with a full orchestra and Kylie’s band at London’s Abbey Road Studios.
The high-energy pop production has been scaled down (and the songs mostly slowed down) in favor of fresh orchestral and acoustic arrangements, sometimes hushed, some with soaring highs, and many with a jazz or blues flavor. All but one of Kylie’s danceable pop hits are presented as ballads here. They’re still mostly pop – but it’s a more adult, sophisticated variety of pop, often sweet, and occasionally dark or seductive.
The album’s first single, the previously-unreleased “Flower,” Written during the time of her breast cancer treatments, when her future ability to have a child was in question, “Flower” is a wistful, tender love letter to a hoped-for future child:
Distant child, my flower
Are you blowing in the breeze?
Can you feel me?
As I breathe life into you
In a while my flower
Somewhere in a desert haze
I know one day you’ll amaze me
“The Locomotion,” written by Gerry Goffin and Carole King, was a hit for Little Eva back in 1962, 25 years before Kylie’s success with it in 1987. Twenty-five years later, Kylie reaches back to the 1960s for inspiration, and gives the song a fun Motown-esque makeover. It’s the only non-ballad on the new album, and like the original may inspire you to put on your dancing shoes.
“Love at First Sight,” a little more up-tempo than some of the other songs, is given a contemporary country twist. “Hand on Your Heart” is country-influenced as well. “I Believe in You” is a sweet love song. “Slow” is transformed into a sultry, seductive torch song; it has the feel of being sung in a smoky jazz club. “On a Night Like This” morphs into a momentous big-band number.
As was the original, Kylie’s new take on “Where the Wild Roses Grow,” is a duet with Nick Cave. This time around, it’s given a traditional folk-style acoustic arrangement, which works well to highlight the story and emotion of this dark ballad about a man who takes the life of his trusting young lover.
While most of the songs on this album worked well in their new tone, a little more punch and sizzle – still quite possible acoustically or with an orchestra – would have better kept my attention. But if you’re looking for a moody album with a contemporary pop vibe – maybe just the thing for fall nights and the holidays – this might be the one.
The Abbey Road Sessions caps a year-long celebration of Kylie’s 25 years in music, which has also included a hit single, “Timebomb,” a global tour, and the release of a greatest hits album.
It took some audacity for Kylie Minogue to reinterpret her songs in so radical a manner; this is a long way from anything her fans have heard, or expected from her before. But it mostly works – the album shows her versatility, and that there are exciting possibilities for her future as a performer. It will be fascinating to see what the next 25 years brings.