Thursday, 22 August 2013

Music review - THIS IS IT: The Very Best of Dannii Minogue [CD and Itunes download]...

The Australian arm of Warner Music released THIS IS IT, a collection of singles spanning the past 23 years from Dannii's five studio albums on Friday 23rd August 2013.


They've arranged this release to cash in on her new, high profile job "to celebrate her Australian debut on The X Factor", and the CD edition contains a 24 page booklet, containing a ton of photos of Dannii over a twenty three year period, which the THIS IS IT producers tell us are previously unseen - although most of them are in the booklets for the deluxe editions of her albums...

So lets not hang around, and get stuck into Dannii's five eras, on offer here...

Dannii/Party Jam/Love & Kisses (1990):

This album hosts the top 10 singles Love And Kisses, Success, Jump To The Beat, Baby Love and the less successful I Don't Wanna Take This Pain. The singles haven't aged as well as the songs from Dannii's other albums have, but only the first two are particularly cringe worthy [sample line that has stuck in my head; "We ain't in MacDonalds baby, so what's your beef?"].

The album was written and recorded in America, so the singles are a attitude laden pop/R&B hybrid that is still fun and remain guilty pleasures today. Even though it was Dannii's first album, her vocals are strong - stronger then they were on her most successful album Neon Nights.

Get Into You (1993):

The CD features only two singles from this album - the soulful Show You The Way To Go, and the pure pop of This Is It [the Itunes release of THIS IS IT features the rest of the Get Into You singles]. Dannii's vocal coach encouraged her to smoke a pack of cigarettes before each recording session for this album, to give her vocals a deeper rasp, and it is apparent on these singles.

Dannii has admitted that she didn't enjoy the experience of making this album, as the American producers of the album changed the poppy, radio friendly formula and pushed the little white Aussie girl to do soulful R&B. It was a shame that she didn't enjoy making this album, and it didn't sell well, as I'd have loved her to have done more work in this style. When you strip the synths and voice effects away, Dannii does have a very pleasant voice and strong vocals. This album, and it's singles, proves it. I don't think that these tracks have aged too much over the 20 years since the original album release.

Girl (1997):

This is her first 'adult' sounding album, and marks Dannii's transition into dance territory. The singles All I Wanna Do, Everything I Wanted, and the slower single Disremembrance are all influenced by trance and dance hall synths, which was cutting edge at the time - and they haven't aged though to today. This album also includes the dance hall/pop Australia-only single Coconut, which was released to celebrate her tour.

Dannii's voice is very strong here - not quite as strong as on the Get Into You singles, but stronger then her singles from the Love & Kisses, Neon Nights and Club Disco albums. All of these singles are sung in higher notes then Dannii usually sings in, so that is another reason that these tracks stand out.

Neon Nights (2003):

Dannii's most successful era. After touring, and leaving music behind to appear in several major theatre productions, she performed the vocals on Riva's dance track Who Do You Love Now. The single went to #3, and was a huge success internationally, so resulted in a new record deal, album and the top ten single Put The Needle On It. The other two singles [I Begin To Wonder and Don't Wanna Lose This Groove] were both in the top five. Vocally Dannii is good here, but with the electro synths of these singles, she doesn't sound very unique. Above average, but she doesn't stand out. Strong singles though.

The single Don't Wanna Lose This Groove started life as Don't Wanna Lose This Feeling, but one of her producer friends mixed the more poppy song up with Madonna's Get Into The Groove, making it more electro/synth sounding like the other singles. Dannii then asked Madonna for permission to release the new bootleg version, Madonna said yes, so here we are...

Club Disco (2007):

This album wasn't actually 'officially' released. Dannii released two singles [You Won't Forget About Me and Perfection] in anticipation for this album, but, after the death of a close friend, hung up her microphone and never actually finished making the album, instead releasing her official Greatest Hits [Hits & Beyond] collection. The record label later smelled money after Dannii joined X Factor UK, so just added Dannii's Hits & Beyond promotional single [So Under Pressure] and an Australia only single [He's The Greatest Dancer] to a bunch of her unreleased material, and released it as a 'new' album.

I really like You Won't Forget About Me - the music is not quite dance, not quite trance, and not quite pop, whilst the lyrics are almost ballad like. I think of the song as a follow-up to This Is It. For the remaining three singles; I like the combination of classic disco sounds with modern club tracks and the lyrics are fun, but you can tell that Dannii wasn't really giving things her all on the last three singles. Nice background music to get ready for a night out to, but nothing special.

The producers of THIS IS IT made a big deal about including the song The Winner Takes It All (a duet with Kylie), and refer to it as being previously unreleased. Simply put, no it isn't some lost gem that never made it onto an album; the song was recorded specially for the soundtrack of a TV show [The Beautiful People], and that soundtrack has been available to buy for the past four years. 

The music for this track is performed by the BBC Orchestra and, like the Get Into You era, the lack of synths and other effects show of her natural vocals nicely. Whenever I listen to this track I can't help but wonder why Kylie has always been more popular then Dannii, as I do prefer Dannii's vocals - she doesn't have the same helium/nasal tone as her sister - and she has the stronger vocals on the drawn out notes at the end of the song.

THIS IS IT only features one new track; 'Cos You're Beautiful. The track was co-written by one of Dannii's X Factor UK finalists, Ruth Lorenzo (she also sings backing vocals). It's not really 'new', it was supposed to be on Dannii's comeback album, which she shelved after becoming pregnant.

Her last few singles saw her playing it too safe when it came to the style and her vocals, so this pop-rock track, which has her stretching her range, makes a nice album ending. Since the album producers labelled the song as a 2013 track, I wonder if it has been rerecorded, reedited, or maybe it is planned as a single?

Dannii's music career hasn't always been a success, and her last live performances were done on autopilot and admittedly not that great compared to what she is capable of, but I love that she's always made the music she's wanted to make and not played it safe by repeating the same style over and over, or just copying whatever was the 'in' thing at the time. All of her albums have a noticeably different sound, which you can easily follow along via the singles. It is nice to have everything in high definition, in a nice range of international single mixes, and a nice selection of different eras of Dannii's music grouped together in one collection. THIS IS IT is an enjoyable look back over the major releases of Dannii Minogue's music career. THIS IS IT is also the most complete compilation album her record label has released, so stands out from the six other budget releases released under her name, So I was tempted to give this review the full five stars.

However I do feel that the record label shouldn't have rush-released this compliation album to coincide with Dannii's TV career, and instead have taken a bit more time and effort to source material that most fans don't already own. For instance it would have been nice to give the people who supported her singing career something more then one 'new' song for their money - especially when that person is someone who has been singing, recording and writing music for such a long time. Including some little known and unreleased material here that would have appealed to fans more than getting the same songs again; she has loads of old album leftovers and she had been working on a comeback album that she abandoned after becoming pregnant, so it's not as though it would cost the label any more time or money to get and use 'new' material, as there are already songs recorded and mastered that are now gathering dust somewhere.

In fact THIS IS IT should ideally have been a two-disc release as the digital version hosts more tracks and is cheaper, so the record label have shot themselves in the foot sales-wise when it comes to the pysical edition of THIS IS IT. A total of seven singles are missing from the CD edition of the album. And whilst the Itunes versions of THIS IS IT does have some of these missing singles, you won't get her three rarer releases; Rescue Me, Boogie Woogie, or Everlasting Night '99. These singles were all single country releases and have not appeared on any of Dannii's studio albums either, so I think that it would have made more sense to the makers of THIS IS IT to have made room for these particular singles. In addition to the missing singles, she has recorded songs for her threatre work, and she has work that has been included on numerous compliation albums. There's more then enough rare and unheard material from Dannii that is now just sitting around in the record label's vaults, so why not do something with it?

However the biggest missed opportunity on this release is that Dannii's solo recordings from the two Young Talent Time soundtrack albums she featured on have not been included on THIS IS IT. For someone who has always had people sneer and tell her that the only reason she has been able to have had a singing career is through her sister, I'm quite disappointed that her 1982 and 1985 commercially available releases aren't here. Surely including her first steps in her singing career would have been a better way to "celebrate" her transition from a talent show performer to a talent show judge?

In summary; THIS IS IT is an enoyable, and easy to listen to, look back over the major releases of Dannii Minogue's music career, so I do think that it is a good buy. However I do feel that it could have easily been a bit better.



CD edition tracklist

Love And Kisses (1990)
Success (1990)
Jump To The Beat (1991)
Baby Love (1991)
Don't Wanna Take This Pain (1991)
Show You The Way To Go (1992)
This Is It (1993)
All I Wanna Do (1997)
Everything I Wanted (1997)
Disremembrance (1998)
Coconut (1998)
Who Do You Love Now (2001)
Put The Needle On It (2002)
I Begin To Wonder (2003)
Don't Wanna Lose This Groove (2003)
You Won't Forget About Me (2004)
Perfection (2005)
So Under Pressure (2006)
He's The Greatest Dancer (2006)
The Winner Takes It All (Duet With Kylie Minogue) (2009)
'cos You're Beautiful (2013)


Itunes tracklist

The mp3 version of the album includes a total of four of the singles that are missing from the CD version of THIS IS IT. The singles Love' s On Every Corner, This Is The Way and Get Into You are all from Dannii's Get Into You album, and Dannii wrote and performed vocals on 2007's Touch Me Like That for friend and DJ/producer Jason Nevins.

Love And Kisses
Jump To The Beat
Baby Love
Don't Wanna Take This Pain
Show You The Way To Go
Love's On Every Corner
This Is It
This Is The Way
Get Into You
All I Wanna Do
Everything I Wanted
Who Do You Love Now
Put The Needle On It
I Begin To Wonder
Don't Wanna Lose This Groove
You Won't Forget About Me
So Under Pressure
He's The Greatest Dancer
Touch Me Like That
The Winner Takes It All
'cos You're Beautiful

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