Celebrate Christmas with Celine: “These Are Special Times”.
Celine Dion was at the peak of her career in 1998 when she released her seasonal collection “These Are Special Times”. Clocking up three enormously successful studio albums and topping the charts the world over since 1994, she had opened the year with her song from the movie ‘Titanic’, “My Heart Will Go On”, which topped the singles charts in 30 countries and sold over 18 million copies worldwide making it one of the biggest selling singles of all time.
“These Are Special Times” would see Celine in fine form as she recited some old Christmas favourite’s such as “The Christmas Song (Chestnuts Roasting On An Open Fire)” and Elvis’ “Blue Christmas” along with a few new tracks for good measure (“Don’t Save It All For Christmas Day” and the title track are standouts!). She duetted with R Kelly on the song “I’m Your Angel” which was released in support of the album and climbed to No.1 in The US (her fourth US chart topper) and No.5 in the UK, as well making the top ten in a further ten countries globally.
Her 1997 album “Let’s Talk About Love” unsurprisingly continued to sell by the truck load throughout 1998 and would eventually shift over 31 million copies worldwide and provide chart hit singles that included “The Reason”, “Immortality” (with The Bee Gees) and “Tell Him” (with Barbra Streisand). And with her two previous albums “Falling Into You” (1996) and “The Colour Of My Love” (1994) going uber Platinum around the world, Celine was not just on top of the world by the end of 1998, she was also on top of everyone’s Christmas tree too (and probably under it as well)! Recording for the album took place during the Summer of 1998 and was chiefly produced by David Foster and Ric Wake with contributions from Celine regular Humberto Gatica and even Bryan Adams on the brand new track “Another Year Has Gone By”.
“These Are Special Times” opens with the traditional “On Holy Night” before showcasing the first new song “Don’t Save It All For Christmas Day”, written by Peter Zizzo (“Think Twice, “Only One Road”) and Ric Wake, who also produces the song. It’s a typical Celine power ballad laced with Christmas cheer and gives the lady her first opportunity to raise the roof with THAT voice!
She follows this with her version of Elvis Presley’s 1957 hit “Blue Christmas” where Celine gives an effortlessly cool, jazz vocal to this smooth version of the song. The joyous “Another Year Has Gone By” written and produced by Bryan Adams comes next and it’s a gloriously festive number with Celine providing a gentle vocal this time as Adams plays the guitar in the background.
More traditional songs follow with “The Magic Of Christmas Day”, “Ave Maria” and “O Come All Ye Faithful” all sung with seasonal passion. Celine gives a warm and beautiful rendition next of the classic “The Christmas Song (Chestnuts Roasting On An Open Fire)” and you can feel the logs on the fire burning as the snow falls outside the window.
Celine joins forces with opera star Andrea Bocelli next for another new composition “The Prayer” written and produced by the legendary Carole Bayer-Sager with David Foster. The track was released as a single in early 1999 reaching No.6 in Canada and No.22 on the adult contemporary chart in the US. Celine re-recorded the song in 2008 this time with Josh Groban and this version reached No.70 on the US singles chart.
After “Brahms Lullaby” there comes another new track “Christmas Eve” co-written by Maria Christensen, who was one half of the short lived pop duo 3rd Party. They released one album that contained the song “Waiting For Tonight”, later a hit for Jennifer Lopez. The title track follows this, written and produced by the incomparable hit songwriter Diane Warren. “These Are The Special Times” is a rousing festive number with that oh so familiar Diane Warren sound and feel to it. Again, Dion performs with a relaxed vocal and restrains from those strong power vocals as a choir of backing singers join her for the final chorus.
Celine next tackles John Lennon’s 1971 classic “Happy Xmas (War Is Over)” and again gives a faithful and stirring tribute to this seasonal favourite complete with children’s choir all executed to magical effect. “I’m Your Angel” follows this as previously mentioned above with the album closing with “Feliz Navidad” from 1970 and another Brahms number “Les cloches du hameau”.
“These Are Special Times” was released on 30th October 1998 and the following month Celine was granted an exclusive TV show on CBS to premier and promote the album which drew a US audience of over sixteen million viewers. “These Are The Special Times” continued Celine’s reign on the global charts, reaching No.2 in the US and selling over five million copies there and No.20 in the UK selling over 400,000 copies there and, to date, a total of over twelve million copies worldwide. It is currently the fourth best selling Christmas album in the US and eighth biggest seller worldwide, bettering Mariah Carey’s “Merry Christmas” (1994) for sales, even though that album has a persistently strong performing single (“All I Want For Christmas Is You”) every holiday season. Well done Celine!
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