Have You Never Been Mellow
Released: February 1975
Chart Peak: #1
Weeks Charted: 31
Certified Gold: 2/26/75
With the huge success of Have You Never Been Mellow, Olivia Newton-John joins Helen Reddy and Karen Carpenter as one of the decade's three white female MOR superstars. All three women specialize in packaged television music, most of it aesthetically worthless. Its commercial value, however, cannot be dismissed as accidental. Each artist embodies a distinguishable, if bland, female archetype with wide demographic appeal. Their albums are organized around simple, catchy tunes and produced with emphasis on the middle and upper ranges that carry best on portable radio. Production is streamlined to make the tunes move quickly ("Have You Never Been Mellow" plays at exactly two beats per second).
Newton-John's records combine standard MOR production with instrumentation borrowed from country music, and Newton-John, who is British born, affects a country-girl personality convincingly enough to sell to the country as well as the pop market. Her voice is very pretty, especially in the upper register ("And in the Morning"). She looks and sounds like a breathlessly innocent real-life doll. The smash title cut of her new album is its most ingenuous.
- Stephen Holden, Rolling Stone, 4/24/75.
Last year's new superstar shows no signs of slowing down this mix of country, soft rock and easy listening cuts designed to appeal to the fans she has garnered in all three areas. Miss Newton-John has developed into an excellent singer, she does not go out of her range (sticking to the softer tunes or the "Let Me Be There" kind of melodies her voice is best suited for) and stands as a remarkable example of musical versatility. Backed by fine production arrangements throughout, the set is basically an extension and progression of her last effort. Tunes have been carefully selected, with the John Denver/Tom Jans mode of easy country/rock the most predominant. Highlight may well prove to be a version of "The Air That I Breathe" that moves form an almost hymn like arrangement to a Spector type build and back. Few flaws here and an almost certain bet to strap her firmly in the superstar category for good. Best cuts: "Have You Never Been Mellow," "Loving Arms," "Wather Under The Bridge" (country flavor), "It's So Easy" (a good country rocker), "The Air That I Breathe," "Follow Me," "Please Mr. Please."
- Billboard, 1975.
After checking out the competition -- I've given up on Helen Reddy, Anne Murray repeats herself, and Loretta Lynn's latest is a bummer -- I began to entertain heathenish thoughts about this MOR nemesis, whose mid-Atlantic accent inspired Tammy Wynette to found a country music association designed to exclude her. At least this woman sounds sexy, says I to meself, but Carola soon set me straight. "A geisha," she scoffed. "She makes her voice smaller than it really is just to please men." At which point I put away my heathenish thoughts and finished the dishes. D+
- Robert Christgau, Christgau's Record Guide, 1981.
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