Have You Never Been Mellow
Released: February 1975
Chart Peak: #1
Weeks Charted: 31
Certified Gold: 2/26/75
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. Three other songs -- "It's So Easy," "Please Mr. Please" and Rick Nelson's "Lifestream" -- are possible followups, with "Please" the likliest contender. Newton-John's version of "I Honestly Love You" recently won a Grammy for record of the year. Though "Honestly" is an above average MOR single, it can't, by any stretch of the imagination, be considered a recording achievement. Which only goes to show that the Grammy, like the Oscar, rewards commercial success more often than creativity.
- Stephen Holden, Rolling Stone, 4/24/75.
Funny she should ask if we've never been mellow. If you wanted a graphic presentation of Olivia Newton-John's career so far, you'd go down to Toy City and fetch the Barbie Goes Down on the Farm set in expensive plastic-covered cardboard. And I don't mean to take away from the thing, boys, from how cute she is in jeans. It's just that either (a) she's been ordered to sing songs in which the lyrics are pap, filler, not to be bothered about, or (b) she has a knack for making songs sound as if they were designed that way. I think it's mostly been (a), although there are a couple of clear-cut (b) cases here -- compare her blank-stare reading of Tom Jans' "Loving Arms" to, say, Jody Miller's (as long as we're thinking about who looks good in jeans), and you'll soon stop blaming that particular song. Newton-John seems to me a child of television, the kind of act video's dynamics foster: get on looking great, skip through the song without foolishly trying to compete, on the side of the lyrics, with all that twinkle and glow of the elaborate color set, engage the host in a few minutes of bright patter his committee of writers polished and fussed over for weeks, and get off. But I'm sounding harsher than the subject merits. Olivia is pleasant enough to listen to when the beat is going bippity-boppity -- "Water Under the Bridge," for example -- and, as something to look at, she's certainly a nice change of pace from TV detectives, grey-haired, curly-haired, bald or fat.
- Noel Coppage, Stereo Review, 6/75.
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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