Given Kylie Minogue’s highly polished pop sound over her 25-year career, there’s a temptation to assume she’s not necessarily a good singer and that she’s simply a producer’s plaything. From her work with the hitmaking team of Stock Aitken Waterman in the late ’80s (when she was still a teenager) through this year’s explosive electro-dance song “Timebomb,” Minogue’s music traditionally has been precisely processed, leaving those who haven’t heard her perform live reason to suspect her voice has been heavily manipulated in the studio.
Well, “The Abbey Road Sessions” puts her vocal in a new light as Minogue revisits her old material in more naturalistic settings, including backdrops of piano or acoustic guitar as well as symphonic arrangements.
The result reveals a lightly honeyed coat on her sweet vocal, which is a new layer of charm for the already endearing artist. Minogue may not be a belter, but those showoffs are overrated anyway.
Regardless, it seems unlikely Minogue is trying to prove anything with “The Abbey Road Sessions” — she’s just celebrating her milestone anniversary in the music business and offering fans a playful diversion.
And it is fun to hear as she turns her ’80s hit “The Locomotion” into a swinging, honking, big-band number and converts the 1988 single “I Should Be So Lucky” into a surreal, string-laden track that sounds like a Disney fantasy. More recent songs are likewise retooled into alluring numbers — “All the Lovers” soars with soulful uplift, “Slow” smolders with seductive rhythm, “I Believe in You” is bewitching in its seeming sincerity. Also, “Can’t Get You Out of My Head,” once a pulsing dance cut, sounds like the obsession of an infatuated woman prodded into overdrive by earnest strings, which gives new light to lyrics like, “There’s a dark secret in me ... Set me free.”
Meanwhile, Nick Cave cuts new vocals for his part in a revamp of their creepy 1996 duet “Where the Wild Roses Grow,” and there’s a stately new song, “Flower,” that proves Minogue can saunter around a string section as well as just about anyone else.
Perhaps “The Abbey Road Sessions” also serves as training for Minogue’s eventual place in the pop-symphony circuit, but the vibrant vocalist hardly seems ready to be a nostalgia artist.
Rating: 4 stars (out of five)
© 2012, Knoxville News Sentinel Co.
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