The Abbey Road Sessions contains only one new track – the fragile Flower – but everything else is a familiar song given the orchestral treatment. This album is based on her live show at the Abbey Road Studios in England, in which she had a 22-piece orchestra accompany her as she crooned and swooned her way through her greatest hits, and it is her way of marking her 25th year in the business since she hit it big with Locomotion.
All in all, this is a fascinating effort that highlights the dichotomy of Ms Minogue. Her biggest hits are fast-paced pop tunes that function both as ear wax and sensory irritants, but a big part of her core of devoted fans would point out that their favorite tracks from hers are those where she broke out of the mold and did something to surprise people, usually with some unexpectedly strong vocals in the forefront.
Some tracks get some dramatic rework with the orchestral treatment, and the result is dazzling. On a Night Like This becomes a seductive grand big band tune, while frantic violins drive Can’t Get You Out of My Head into some kind of dramatic background music in some noir movie. Hand on Your Heart transforms from a one-dimensional irritating song into a gentle track where her subtle vocal nuances bring on the heartbreak, magnified by the sparse background accompaniment by a piano and some brushed drums. Slow goes from a seductive EDM track to an even more seductive track brimming with predatory lust and mischief.
Orchestral doesn’t always mean slow. The reworked Locomotion is a slice of fabulous 1960s-goodness, with all the bounce and playfulness embodied in the original version by Little Eva and none of the cheese that plagued Ms Minogue’s original cover version of that song. Love at First Sight goes from a high-energy slice of pop into a stripped down carefree song that just gambols along like the happiest thing ever.
There are some oddities, however. All the Lovers suffers from some horrible arrangement work and the resulting song sounds too much like the original, minus its charms. I Should Be So Lucky feels terribly pretentious, while Where the Wild Roses Grow and Confide in Me, two of her best songs, don’t seem all that different from their original versions. Flower, while a sweet song, feels like a B-side filler compared to the other songs in this album. Oddly as well, the spectacular reworking of Wow – easily one of the best Abbey Road Sessions songs – is released only as an Australian album bonus track, and that is a shame as nobody can say “You got it, chihuahua-hua-wow!” (okay, I know she didn’t say that, but it sounds like it, heh) and still make the song brimming with both the sassy and the sexy in every second of its three minutes or so running length.
It doesn’t matter, though. The Abbey Road Sessions is a marvelous listen, and it’s simultaneously amusing, surprising, and hilarious to experience different sides of Ms Minogue’s more well-known catalog. This is a nice collection for her fans, and a pretty good way for more casual listeners to see a different side of Kylie Minogue.