“Juliana Hatfield Sings Olivia Newton-John”
BOTTOM LINE A loving tribute to one of pop’s underappreciated pioneers.
This is a match made in female-rocker heaven.
With “Juliana Hatfield Sings Olivia Newton-John” (American Laundromat), Hatfield not only showcases the sturdiness of Newton-John’s undeniable catalog, which spans country, pop and rock, but by amping up the edges serves as a reminder of the barriers the Aussie singer broke through in the ’70s.
Hatfield, who celebrated the 25th anniversary of her landmark alt-rock album “Hey Babe” last year, doesn’t quite have the vocal power that Newton-John did in her heyday, but she makes it work. Instead of delivering that one pristine note at the end of “Hopelessly Devoted to You” the way Newton-John did, Hatfield roughs it up, making it rock a bit. She turns the country ballad “Dancin’ Round and Round” into a stomping bit of cowpunk. The way she revs up “Make a Move On Me” and flattens and clips the notes turns the funky original into something that could hit on alternative radio right now. And Hatfield admirably takes on three songs from “Xanadu,” a reminder of how many gems came from that movie.