Greetings from Asheville, where good music is always on the turntable. Today’s Classic Album Review is a 1974 release from British-born/Australian-raised Olivia Newton-John. Olivia was one of the hottest acts in both country and pop music, at the time, and we are looking back at her album If You Love Me (Let Me Know). Released by MCA Records in May, it was her second worldwide album release of the year, but her first of the year in the U. S.
The album is a mix of the title track, along with previously released tracks from her earlier European releases Long Live Love, Olivia, and Music Makes My Day. The tracks were recorded during various early 1970’s sessions in the famous Abbey Road Studios.
This is one of those albums I heard countless times, when it was popular, but after having maybe listened to it a couple of times, the past forty years, I have to say, it’s held up well.
The album kicks off with the title cut, “If You Love Me (Let Me Know)”, Olivia’s highest charting country single, peaking at number two. Easily the best cut on the disc, which generally, the title cut should be. It’s always been one of those songs that tend to stick in your head, whenever you hear it. It’s one of those songs that I wouldn’t list as an all-time favorite, however, were it to come on the radio (which is rare, in this day), I will listen to it.
To me, “Mary Skeffington” is okay, but nothing particularly special about it. However, like the title cut, it’s one of those melodies, that tend to stick with you, once you hear it.
“Country Girl” is a decent track, one of the tracks on the disc that fall more to the country side.
The second single from the album was “I Honestly Love You”, which, like the title cut, was top ten on both the country and pop charts. One of the great love songs of that era. A very intimate arrangement that escaped the overproduction that tended to muddle many of the recordings of that time.
This may be Olivia’s best vocal performance of any song she ever recorded. And it’s far superior to a later version she recorded in the late 1990’s.
Side 1 closes with “Free the People”, a bouncy selection that has a strong gospel influence on it. One of the better cuts on the album, in fact, better than I remember it.
On side 2, Olivia Newton-John opens with the most country song on the disc, “The River’s Too Wide”, yet another of those tunes that I warn you, it will get stuck in your head when you hear it. This one comes from the pen of veteran Nashville songwriter Bob Morrison. This one could have easily been a single, with definite top ten country potential, were it not for Jim Mundy’s version, which was a top fifteen country hit in Billboard and top ten in Cashbox. This track also includes some great harmony vocals.
“Home Ain’t Home Anymore” is alright, but nothing particularly special. Not great, but good enough that you won’t likely skip the track.
Olivia tackles the Beach Boys’ “God Only Knows”, but it just doesn’t quite work, for me. It feels like the production team tried to capture the same feel as the original, but they didn’t quite succeed. The arrangement is lacking, especially compared to the Beach Boys version, and it’s a song better suited (to me) for the group harmony, as opposed to a solo effort.
“Changes” is a mellow ballad that is one of standout tracks on the disc. Another one of her better vocal performances. It was never a single, yet still received some airplay as an album cut.
“You Ain’t Got the Right”, a great sound that gives this album a great conclusion. This is another that I think could have been a good single, had they so chosen.
AVAILABILITY AND OVERALL THOUGHTS
If You Love Me (Let Me Know) is not currently available, as of this writing (2/19/20). It has been on CD, but copies are scarce and prices on both Amazon and eBay are at a premium; at least $80. On the other hand, used vinyl copies are plentiful, mostly well under $10, some as low as $3. According to Goldmine, near-mint copies are valued at $15. Early copies mistakenly had “I Honestly Love You” as “I Love You, I Honestly Love You”. Goldmine values near-mint copies just a tad higher at $18.
This album is not groundbreaking, pretty much standard country-pop fare of the mid 1970’s. It is interesting to note that this release, along with the follow-up, Have You Never Been Mellow, were Olivia’s only 2 number one albums, both topping the country and pop album charts, though later releases Totally Hot and Physical both sold more copies.
Olivia Newton-John was a little
limited, vocally. She didn’t have the range, nor could she belt out songs like many of her country and pop contemporaries of that time, such as Connie Smith, Tammy Wynette, Linda Ronstadt, or Stevie Nicks, without sounding strained or sounding as she was outside her range. However, when she stayed within that range, she could produce sounds as good as anyone, and on this release, she did just that. One of her best albums, especially from that era.
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ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Mike the Country Musicologist is a lifelong music and radio fanatic, model railroader, lover of vintage agriculture, and big sports fan, including the Colts, Reds, Hurricanes, Pacers, Purdue & Butler Universities. He has collected records since childhood, focusing on classic country and top 40 oldies music. He convinced Vincennes University to give him an Associate’s Degree in broadcasting. He’s worked for several stations in Indiana and North Carolina. Be sure to follow him on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Pinterest.