October 10, 1988 12:00 PM

Olivia Newton-John

Lively, funny, thoughtful, varied—this album is enough to make anyone forget about Newton-John’s previous record, the embarrassing Soul Kiss in 1985, and keep on forgetting all the way back to her splendid Livvy-discovers-sex production of 1981, Physical. The Rumour includes one unfortunate track, the childishly titillation-seeking Can’t We Talk It Over in Bed. The rest of the album is a triumph. Elton John all but handed her a hit with the title tune. He co-wrote it with Bernie Taupin, co-produced (with James Newton Howard) Newton-John’s version and even sings a hearty backup for her. Olivia throws herself into it, though, setting the standard Elton John bass-rhythm-melody hooks and creating a memorable pop track in the process. There is plenty of subtlety on the album too. It’s Not Heaven, which Newton-John wrote with Randy Goodrum, is a mature but not cynical tune about a single mother. Walk Through Fire is a pledge of romance by David Baerwald and David Ricketts in which Olivia picks up both the unbridled passion and the sobering hint of realism: “No love is written in stone.” Get Out, another Newton-John-Goodrum collaboration, is about a noisome house husband: “Someone’s in the kitchen trying to cook me up trouble/Someone’s in the kitchen trying to stir me up inside.” There are also message songs that, without getting too preachy, make points about AIDS (Love and Let Live) and ecology (Let’s Talk About Tomorrow). Newton-John’s sweet trumpet of a voice has never sounded better. She and her new main producer, Davitt Sigerson (David and David is his other main credit), complement each other. Here is an album where, happily, you have to get down to the album cover art directors—Jeff Adamoff and Michael Diehl, who put a murky, way-out-of-focus, unflattering picture of Olivia on the cover—before you find very much to complain about. (MCA)

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