The most recent in a series of collections of newly recorded acoustic/orchestral renditions by beloved pop artists, Kylie Minogue’s 25th anniversary album, The Abbey Road Sessions, translates the Australian icon’s biggest hits in often unexpectedly effective ways, something both Patrick Wolf’s arduous Sundark and Riverlight and Tori Amos’s lovely but largely forgettable Gold Dust failed to do. Minogue’s early material fares well, if only because any incarnations would be an improvement over the cheesy Stock, Aitken, and Waterman originals, but it’s the songs that receive the most drastic revisions that elevate the album above a mere exercise or cash grab. Though the stripped-down aesthetic puts the focus on Minogue’s often tinny voice, the more dramatic, fully fleshed out arrangements of standouts like “Finer Things” and “Can’t Get You Out of My Head” compensate for the lack of synthetic dance beats and vocal effects. The new version of “Confide in Me” puts a spotlight on the song’s ominous guitar riff (lifted from the Doors’ “The End”), turning the sleek, Middle Eastern-infused dance track into an electrifying rock ballad, while the slinky electro-pop “Slow” is transformed into a smoldering torch song. “Where the Wild Roses Grow,” Minogue’s 1995 duet with Nick Cave, is sadly stripped of its orchestral arrangement (and, thus, much of its intended melodrama), but the album’s only real train wreck is “Locomotion,” a cover of the Little Eva song that put Minogue on the map in 1988. The song itself deserves part of the blame, but it could have benefited from a more extreme reinvention. More importantly, though, it’s hard to even appreciate its kitsch value when it’s featured alongside some genuinely inspired reinterpretations.
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