Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Truly The Only Album Fans Of Celine Dion Actually Need: My Love: Ultimate Essential Collection.

The Good: Some catchy tunes, Duration
The Bad: Very repetitive sound
The Basics: A good collection of the first twenty years of Celine Dion's career, the two-disc My Love: Ultimate Essential Collection is THE version to pick up for those who must.

For those who follow my monthly Artist Of The Month campaigns, I sometimes fear that I might be presenting a feel that is very repetitive when I immerse myself in a single musical artist. This problem is exacerbated when one is reviewing a performer instead of an actual creative talent because notes must be made about the performers lack of input into the material so credit may be laid at the feet of those actually responsible for the works. That said, some days there are truly repetitive reviews and as September winds down and I spin the last Celine Dion discs in my (and her!) arsenal, today is one of them. As I investigate My Love: Ultimate Essential Collection, there might be an even more familiar than usual tint to it. That is quite simply because earlier I reviewed My Love: Essential Collection. The one word makes a huge amount of difference. This c.d. is actually a two-disc set. It contains the entire first album (so I shall not repeat the critique of that) as well as a second album with lesser-known hits.

Of the two, this is THE Celine Dion ultimate collection to get, if one feels they must have Celine Dion in their collection. The reason for this is quite simple: for a few dollars more, one gets all of Celine Dion's radio hits (including "To Love You More!") and b-sides that are harder to come by, like Dion's covers of "River Deep, Mountain High" and "(You Make Me Feel Like) A Natural Woman." As with her usual fare, Dion is not much of a creative talent, but I tend to argue in favor of compilation albums that offer a broader sense of the performer and My Love: Ultimate Essential Collection does that.

The bonus material on My Love: Ultimate Essential Collection is an additional ten tracks (there is a hidden version of the original "My Love" at the end of the second disc, not on the tracklist), one disc, with seconds under eighty minutes of music. As a result, the total two-disc set has twenty-eight songs and almost three hours worth of music. As with the one-disc version none of the additional songs were written or even co-produced by Celine Dion. She does not develop any sudden instrumental talent on the bonus disc, so it has Celine Dion solely performing the works of others.

What is nice for fans is the inclusion of some of the more obscure tracks that help fans by eliminating the need for them to track down obscure soundtrack or tribute albums. Most prominently, My Love: Ultimate Essential Collection includes "Dance With My Father," from a Luther Vandross tribute that seems to be harder to find. Similarly, after all of the Celine Dion albums I've listened to this month, this collection seems to be the only place to find Celine Dion's renditions of "(You Make Me Feel Like) A Natural Woman" and "I Knew I Loved You." These songs easily justify the extra dollars for the two-disc set, though truthfully Celine Dion does not own them (at least the former) the way the original artists did. Still, hearing covers of songs like "River Deep, Mountain High," which was popularized by Tina Turner, one wishes for Celine Dion's rendition of "Alone" from her album Taking Chances. The reason for this is simple: this collection perfectly embodies Celine Dion as the diva she is.

Celine Dion, like Turner and Cher is less a creative persona and much more a vocal talent with a strong ability to make the words and music of others recognizable. Celine Dion does this with a birdlike soprano voice that easily outshines most of her peers. Indeed, the tenor voice of Andrea Bocelli on "The Prayer" is so overshadowed by Dion's melodic soprano voice that one almost wonders why she bothered with a duet. Most of the bonus songs feature Dion using her trademark soprano voice and she goes higher on some of the songs (like "(You Make Me Feel Like) A Natural Woman") than the originals did. Still, she adds some variety and her version of "River Deep, Mountain High" illustrates that she can go a little lower and more soulful with her vocals than she usually does.

Just as fans of the radio-hits of Celine Dion might have felt odd about getting a few new tracks with the one-disc version (which is pretty much a standard to try to lure those who have all of the albums a "greatest hits" is compiled from to buying the new compilation), those who pick up the two-disc My Love: Ultimate Essential Collection are bound to find it bursting with some of the forgotten Celine Dion hits. In addition to "Love You More," My Love: Ultimate Essential Collection has "Tell Him," the duet Celine Dion performed with Barbara Streisand. This, though, is a great example of how the album embodies the exact niche Celine Dion has dominated for her English-singing career.

Celine Dion is a performer, almost exclusively, of emotive, romantic ballads that are designed to tug on the heart strings. They are slow, feature Dion's vocals forthrightly presented before the instrumental accompaniment and are in no way the most original lyrics ever presented. Songs like "I Drove All Night" have obvious, predictable rhyme schemes and they hold up poorly over multiple listens. While some of Dion's later songs move more into singing about change and growth, most of her music is about the importance of love, the strength of relationships and the loneliness of loss when a love disappears (they never seem to go sour on this album, just get lost somehow).

Instrumentally, the additional tracks on My Love: Ultimate Essential Collection are very much a continuation of the hits that are found in Dion's repertoire. Dion is backed up almost always by light strings or keyboards. "River Deep, Mountain High" has a departure from this with a more intense percussion section, but "Dance With My Father" is exactly the type of overproduced schmaltzy song one expects to hear on the light rock stations. It matches the instrumental timbre of "My Heart Will Go On" and "The Power Of Love" well.

Ultimately, it is hard not to give credit to Celine Dion, even if she is manufactured by a pretty immense team of producers who have created Brand Celine. My Love: Ultimate Essential Collection reminds the listener that Dion has dominated the airwaves for two decades because she has vocal talent and her producers know how to exploit her talent with an impressive collection from the contemporary songbook. This two-disc version illustrates that the same team seems to have the resources and resolution to continue Dion producing for the next twenty years, making it doubtful that this is truly the "ultimate" collection.

The best songs are "The Power Of Love" (disc 1) and "To Love You More" (disc 2) and the low points are "I'm Your Angel" (disc 1) and the unmemorable "There Comes A Time" (disc 2).

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
I Drove All Night (single)
My Love: Essential Collection


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

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

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