Q-Music: Diva country: new collections from Olivia Newton-John, Madonna, and more

  • by Gregg Shapiro
  • Tuesday August 23, 2022
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Olivia Newton-John, Bobbie Gentry, Mimi Roman, Madonna
Olivia Newton-John, Bobbie Gentry, Mimi Roman, Madonna

Ten years before she released her celebrated 1981 album "Physical" (Primary Wave), newly reissued in an expanded triple disc (double CD + DVD) 40th anniversary edition, the late Olivia Newton-John had established herself as a force in country music, and then pop.

Her 1971 debut album yielded her first stateside hit (a cover of Bob Dylan's "If Not For You") and shortly thereafter she began pumping out a non-stop string of charting singles and LPs, even earning herself Grammy Awards along the way.

What could she possibly do next? Co-star with John Travolta in cocaine-fueled producer Alan Carr and gay director Randal Kleiser's movie version of "Grease," which was followed by the camp classic "Xanadu."

To many ONJ fans' delight, she returned to her own music with "Physical," which not only allowed her to again dabble in the visual (the music video for the title cut remains a classic) but also expand her musical palette.

In addition to the titular number and "Make A Move On Me" as massive singles, the album includes pleasant ballads ("Falling," "Carried Away") and synth workouts ("Landslide" and "Love Make Me Strong"). Reissue bonus tracks on the first disc include "Heart Attack" and "Twist of Fate," to name a couple.

The second disc consists of "additional recordings" including a live version of "Jolene," while the DVD contains the "Physical" video album and a 1982 concert filmed in Ogden, Utah.


Just a few years before we heard from ONJ, the sultry, yet gritty, Bobbie Gentry was stirring things up in the country music scene of 1967. Gentry, whose debut album "Ode To Billy Joe," featuring the Grammy-winning title track, was released the same year as Dolly Parton's debut album "Hello, I'm Dolly."

But something about the Gentry tune permitted it to have the kind of crossover success that would elude Dolly for a little while. The double LP 180-gram vinyl set "The Girl from Chickasaw County" (Capitol/UMC) culls 32 tracks from the similarly named, expansive eight-disc box set.

In addition to the previously mentioned massive hit single, you'll find Gentry originals "Fancy" and "Mississippi Delta, covers (including "God Bless the Child" and "This Girl's In Love With You"), selections from four albums, and numerous cuts from the box set. If a "RuPaul's Drag Race" queen hasn't done Gentry yet, now would be the time.


At 88, Mimi Roman (aka Bronx-born, Brooklyn-raised Miriam Lapolito Rothman) is the elder statesperson here. During the 1950s, from age 20 to 28, Roman so convincingly embodied the spirit of country/rockabilly music (and nailed the accent, too), that she won a series of talent competitions, and even earned herself places on Nashville stages.

The double disc, 35-track compilation "First of the Brooklyn Cowgirls" (Sundaze/Modern Harmonic) features Roman's singular renditions of country tunes, consisting of rare and previously unreleased acetates from her own private collection. Roman both dressed and sounded the part, and this nostalgic journey is one worth taking.

Additionally, Roman had a pop-music side to her musical personality, which she presented under the stage name Kitty Ford in the early 1960s. The 19-track album "Pussycat" (Sundaze) represents the work Roman did as her alter-ego.


Madonna (Louise Ciccone), parts of whom turned 64 in August 2022, has never released a country music album, but don't count her out yet. Madonna does, however, have an insane number of officially sanctioned compilations to her name, including 1987's "You Can Dance," 1990's "The Immaculate Collection," 1995's "Something to Remember," 2008's "GHV2," and 2009's "Celebration."

You'll notice there's not a collection devoted to her regrettable and misguided Interscope years, and for that we are grateful. Some of that is remedied with the triple-disc, 50-track compilation "50 Number Ones: Finally Enough Love" (Rhino/Warner), which spans from 1983's "Holiday" (from her eponymous 1983 Sire debut) to 2020's "I Don't Search I Find" (from 2020's "Madame X" album).

The varied assortment features remixes aplenty, multiple 7" versions, edits galore, soundtrack selections, and then some. The single disc "Finally Enough Love #1's Remixed" (Rhino/Warner), a companion of sorts, includes 16 remixes.


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