Sunday, September 11, 2011

Is This All? Is That Too Much To Hope? Celine Dion's My Love: Essential Collection

The Good: Great vocals, Recognizable songs, Duration
The Bad: Little new, Songs blend together, There is a better two-disc version.
The Basics: A collection of almost entirely recognizable tracks, My Love: Essential Collection is a one-disc "greatest hits" album that offers listeners all of Dion's radio hits.

For those who might not have been following my reviews this month of my Artist Of The Month, Celine Dion, I have developed quite a feeling of boredom for the works of this particular vocal performer. Inarguably, Celine Dion has an amazing soprano voice (when she uses her natural voice and illustrates her vocal talents) but she largely performs the same type songs, slow, melodic, melodramatic ballads, over and over again. So, when my month-long exploration brought me to My Love: Essential Collection my heart skipped a beat: could this truly be it? Is it possible that if Celine Dion is releasing an "Essential Collection" that she might be hanging up her mantle and no longer producing c.d.s? This feeling of elation was expanded when I looked and saw the follow-up: My Love: Ultimate Essential Collection! "Ultimate" could mean final, in addition to best . . . can it be? Only time will tell . . .

As it stands, My Love: Essential Collection is the 2008 outing for Celine Dion and its companion album is My Love: Ultimate Essential Collection. The difference is an entire disc and My Love: Essential Collection is a one-disc collection focusing on Celine Dion's English-language hits compiled from over the last twenty years. The album has what Dion and her producers would argue are the essential songs from her English-singing career and for those looking for the radio hits of Celine Dion, this is a good way to go. In addition to the recognizable and obvious ballads, like "Beauty And The Beast" and "My Heart Will Go On", and the overproduced pop hits like "It's All Coming Back To Me Now" and "I Drove All Night," My Love: Essential Collection includes a pair of b-sides in the form of a live version of "My Love" and her new performance of "There Comes A Time."

With seventeen tracks, clocking out at over seventy minutes of music, My Love: Essential Collection is an anthology album that is ideal for those who like what they have heard from Celine Dion on the radio, but are not terribly interested in anything more by her. As always, Celine Dion has almost no creative control over the album and she is not responsible for writing any of the songs on the album. As well, she does not play any musical instruments nor is she involved with any of the production aspects of the album. Celine Dion is a vocalist only and on this album, she tends to perform in a very monolithic and monotonal way, making for an overall unsatisfying listening experience.

The lack of creative influence over the songs on My Love: Essential Collection ultimately makes for a very bland overall listening experience for this compilation. The album is front-heavy - as Dion's career is - with slow, melodramatic ballads that illustrate Dion's vocal talents but are the musical equivalent of puff pastry: ultimately unsatisfying and lacking in real substance. So, for example, while "Where Does My Heart Beat Now" opens the album with some sense of vocal intensity, it is followed by movie themes like "Beauty And The Beast" and "If You Asked Me To" which are pop ballads that are utterly forgettable.

The songs blend together as the common elements between them are not just Celine Dion's vocals, but an overproduced instrumental quality that is dominated by keyboards and light string sections. Because of this, the performances - which are almost all the standard recordings of each of the hit tracks - begin to take on a narcoleptic quality, as if the point of the album is to lull the listener into a romantic haze. Unfortunately for listeners, the effect is not to put one in a frisky or cuddling mood, but rather to put the listener into a coma from the overly sweet, sleepy songs.

It is not until the twelfth track that the album tries something up-tempo. That's not to say all of the prior songs are all identical, but the few creative leaps before "That's The Way It Is" are remarkably safe and within the expected range that schmaltzy romantic ballads are known for. So, for example, "It's All Coming Back To Me Now" has a more operatic quality - which is pretty much the standard for the song's writer/producer Jim Steinman - than something like "Because You Loved Me," but they are both part of the same gestalt; their overall sound is from the same musical tradition and Dion's execution of both songs is virtually identical.

For the most part, Celine Dion sings earnest ballads with an emotional intensity that is matched by an impressive range. Celine Dion's hit songs on My Love: Essential Collection are almost all using Dion's soprano voice and she sings clearly and sweetly on songs like "My Heart Will Go On" and "Where Does My Heart Beat Now." She goes a little lower for her later tracks like "I Drove All Night" and with more emphasis on "I'm Alive." She treads more toward pop-rock on the later songs as well and the result is an album that starts slow and sleepy and becomes something upbeat long after the listener has stopped caring.

As well, the middle of My Love: Essential Collection is remarkably weak, despite Dion's pretty consistent tendency to make hit songs. But when her producers included a duet from her holiday album ("I'm Your Angel") they cut the pace and recognizable quality that almost every other track on the album had. It becomes an unmemorable way to break up Dion's big hits "My Heart Will Go On" and "That's The Way It Is," which was pretty much when Celine Dion ruled the airwaves.

But for those who do like Celine Dion's radio hits, there are some noticeable omissions, like "Love You More," which was the b-side to the "My Heart Will Go On" single. Instrumentally, almost all of the songs have Dion accompanied by light rock favorites like the keyboards or a string section, though her later songs actually have percussion that is featured prominently ("Taking Chances"). For the most part, though, the instrumental accompaniment to Dion's vocals are flawlessly produced, programmed instrumentals that become background loops to Dion's soft vocals or crescendos.

Ultimately, the strongest reason not to recommend My Love: Essential Collection is that like many performers, Celine Dion has a better version of the same album out. The two-disc My Love: Ultimate Essential Collection offers more bang for the buck than this one-disc version and ultimately is a better value for fans as it offers a more well-rounded view of Dion's career as opposed to just her radio hits. As well, the other album includes all of the tracks on this one-disc album, so one is not missing out on anything.

The best track is "Power Of Love," the low point is the utterly unmemorable "I'm Your Angel."

For other works by Celine Dion, be sure to visit my reviews of:
Celine Dion
The Colour Of My Love
Falling Into You
Let's Talk About Love
The Collector's Series, Volume 1
A New Day Has Come
One Heart
These Are Special Times
Miracle: A Celebration Of New Life
Taking Chances


For other music reviews, please visit my index page by clicking here!

© 2011, 2009 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.

| | |

No comments:

Post a Comment