Seven years after it was originally released under the title Indigo: Women of Song, Olivia Newton-John's 2004 tribute to the female artists who influenced her glittering music career randomly receives the repackaged treatment, with the exact same track list but a slightly misleading different name. Of all her 25 studio albums to gain some renewed attention, it seems odd that this mediocre collection of '60s-centric cover versions has been chosen ahead of her career-defining Physical or her mid-'90s return to form, Gaia. Nevertheless, for anyone who missed it first time round, it's another opportunity to hear the Australian icon valiantly tackle material by some of the most iconic and celebrated singers of all time. Backed by multi-Grammy Award-winning producer Phil Ramone's lush orchestral arrangements, Newton-John's light and airy vocals are the perfect foil for the swooning lounge-pop of the Bacharach/David-penned "Anyone Who Had a Heart" and "Alfie" (presumably inspired by the Dionne Warwick versions rather than Cilla Black's); "Send in the Clowns," the Stephen Sondheim show tune from A Little Night Music previously performed by Barbra Streisand, Judy Garland, and Shirley Bassey; and the breezy bossa nova of Astrud Gilberto's "How Insensitive." But her clean-cut sweetly sung tones lack the emotion to pull off Julie London's torch song "Cry Me a River," the melancholy to do justice to the Carpenters' classic "Rainy Days and Mondays," and the soul of Billie Holiday and Nina Simone to really convince on the Gershwin standard "Summertime," while any attempt to answer back to Minnie Riperton's famous quote of "the blonde singing the bland" backfires thanks to her complete avoidance of the iconic upper-octave high note on "Lovin' You." The sleeve note's charming stories that explain each song's significance show that Newton-John undoubtedly possesses a genuine love of the source material, but it's just a shame that Portraits: A Tribute to Great Women of Song only occasionally converts that affection into something genuinely diverting.
AllMusic Review by Jon O'Brien