Minogue's vocals show more range and technique here than she's usually credited with.
Nick Levine 2012-10-31
Kylie Minogue is a game bird, but thankfully The Abbey Road Sessions isn't her track-by-track remake of the Beatles LP. Instead, it's a collection of reworked versions of the singer's own hits, all recorded at London's famous Abbey Road Studios, where Minogue was backed by a full orchestra.
The idea is to take some of the most popular songs from her 25-year recording career and re-imagine them without the disco glitz and vocal effects. From an artist like Minogue, that's a pretty brave undertaking. Disco glitz is her stock-in-trade, and though she's now acknowledged as a pop icon, it's generally accepted that she's not much of a singer.
So it's impressive and perhaps surprising that she actually pulls it off. Wisely, Minogue and producers Steve Anderson and Colin Elliot offer some variety; they don't just slow things down and slap on strings every time. Many songs do get the full orchestral treatment, but others are turned into piano ballads, and a couple become pretty folk-pop numbers.
The most startling makeover goes to Slow, which is transformed from pulsing electro-pop into a slinky jazz shuffle, complete with vampish vocal performance. But, expectedly perhaps, there are a couple of missteps.
I Believe In You gets smothered with floaty backing vocals and ends up sounding like something from a British Airways advert. Meanwhile, Minogue's 1980s favourite The Locomotion is turned into a bouncy Brill Building pop song, which might be more interesting if it hadn't already been a bouncy Brill Building pop song when Goffin and King wrote it in 1962.
But more often than not, these reinventions are successful. They won't usurp the originals, but they're not really supposed to, and some shed new light on the well-known version. Who knew Stock Aitken Waterman tunes like Never Too Late and Hand On Your Heart had such melancholy lurking under the production chintz?
And by the end, The Abbey Road Sessions has shamed the generally accepted view of Minogue's singing skills. Of course, there's nothing here to scare Adele into rushing her maternity leave, but Minogue's untreated vocals show more range and technique than she's credited with. As a pop vocalist, the woman once dubbed "The Singing Budgie" seems pretty underrated these days.