Celine Dion – “Unison”
French-Canadian singer Celine Dion (b.1968) began releasing music in 1980 and, of course, won the 1988 Eurovision Song Contest, representing Switzerland with “Ne partez pas sans moi” (Don’t Leave Without Me), and yet it still took until 1990 before Celine recorded her first English language album. By then she had already sold over three million records, including the English speaking single “Can’t Live With You, Can’t Live Without You”, a duet with Billy Newton-Davis which reached No.41 in her home country in 1989.
By the end of 1989, production on her first English album proper was almost finished and in early 1990, the first single “(If There Was) Any Other Way” was released, shortly followed by the album itself, her ninth since her debut “La voix du bon Dieu” (The Good Lord’s Voice) in 1981. And this is what the world outside of Canada got:
1. (If There Was) Any Other Way
Produced by Christopher Neil (Dollar, Sheena Easton), “(If There Was) Any Other Way” is a pop-soft rock mid tempo number that introduced the wider world to Celine’s striking voice when it was released in March 1990 as the first single from the album. It performed moderately in the charts making No.23 in Canada and No.35 in America. Oddly, the song, one of a number for the album, was recorded in London and yet there was no interest whatsoever from the UK market in the single.
2. If Love Is Out Of The Question
Neil also produced the next song, a more recognisable late 80’s soft-rock ballad with a modern country feel to it. The song would later turn up to good effect as a B side, but sits perfectly here on this album. The song is clearly a break up song with lines like “It makes no sense to carry on like this, if there’s nothing between us, you don’t know what you’ve missed”, all of which are sung with heart and passion by Celine.
3. Where Does My Heart Beat Now?
Yet another Neil producer song, “Where Does My Heart Beat Now?” is a power ballad and one which showcases more than any yet heard, Celine’s vocal power. The song is co-written by Aerosmith’s Taylor Rhodes, who also plays guitar during the middle-eight and was the third single released in Canada and second in the rest of the world in October 1990. “Where Does My Heart Beat Now?” was Celine’s ‘breakout’ single reaching No.4 in the US and No.6 in Canada as well as breaking into the charts across Europe and internationally, although it could only scrape in at No.72 in the UK, it nevertheless registered there, even if it would take another five years before Celine truly won over hearts in that territory.
4. The Last To Know
“The Last To Know” is a cover version, having been recorded by Sheena Easton (handy when Chris Neil is producing your album!) for her 1987 album “No Sound But A Heart”, which flopped everywhere. Perhaps Neil was mindful of this and gave the song to Celine to record for her first English language album, which is a slow and sensual ballad full of atmosphere and synth-based backing tracks. Celine loved the song so much it was released as the fourth single in early 1991 and went on to peak at No.16 in Canada. The track, like so many of Celine’s earlier recordings, would find a new following as a B side later on in the 90’s, but only once Celine had won over even the most hardened of hearts.
5. I’m Loving Every Moment With You
Change of producer now as David Foster (Chicago, Dionne Warwick) produces the gorgeous “I’m Loving Every Moment With You”, co-written with Tom Keane of The Keane Brothers, and is another great late-80’s easy listening track that really could not offend anyone, even if it tried. Had they of released more singles from this album then “I’m Loving Every Moment With You” would surely of been a candidate with an equally dreamy video shot for it.
6. Love By Another Name
More Foster produced music now, co-written by Clif Magness, who would later go on to produce Avril Lavigne and Glen Ballard, later to produce Alanis Morissette, this is a pop-rock-dance number with a wicked beat and, perhaps now dated, 80’s synth vocalisation. I love this song for its sheer ‘volume’ and scope, unlike any other track on this album, yet it’s more than welcome in amongst ballads and mid-tempo numbers, where it appears so brash and out of place. It’s great to dance to as well, if you’re having an 80’s revival party!
“Unison” is another track that is very much of its time, with a backing track sounding not to dissimilar to Lisa Lougheed’s “Run With Us” – remember that from the 80’s cartoon series The Raccoons?! The song is written by Andy Goldmark and Bruce Roberts (Laura Branigan, Whitney Houston), so perhaps that explains the sound and style of this song. “Unison” is another cover version, having been recorded by Junior Giscombe (later to work with Kim Wilde) and recorded for the soundtrack to the 1983 film ‘All The Right Moves’ which starred a then-unknown Tom Cruise. The song was actually recorded by Branigan for her 1990 self-titled album and by American singer Lory Bianco for her album “Lonely Is The Night”, but it was Celine that had the greatest success with it, releasing it as a single in the Summer of 1990 which peaked at No.45 in Canada, although it wasn’t released commercially elsewhere, that was left to “Where Does My Heart Beat Now?”, as previously mentioned.
8. I Feel Too Much
Another song that is very much of its time is “I Feel Too Much”, but boy, what a song! This is the rockiest track on the album, very mid-80’s, but with a superb synth-beat running through it from beginning to end, awesome guitars and Celine’s vocalised singing combine to make this one of the best tracks on the album that becomes infectious to the ear on first hearing. The song also has a mid-80’s movie feel about it and it’s a shame it wasn’t released as a single, it would of done big business in America and perhaps further afield too…
9. If We Could Start Over
Passionate Celine ballad time now from the studio of David Foster and it’s another 80’s sounding number that could of easily been used for a montage scene in any mid-80’s rom-com film. Equally, it’s another of those tracks on this album that could also of been released as a single, had ‘they’ wanted to keep going!
10. Have A Heart
Time for that last dance as guitars fill the room with this epic, slow number, perfect for spending those last few minutes of the night with someone special. “Have A Heart” is another re-recording, originally given to American singer Angela Clemmons for her 1987 album “This Is Love”. When working on this album with Celine, David Foster thought it would suit her voice and style of this album well and asked her to record it. Good move, as it was released as the fifth and final single from the album in the Summer of 1991, reaching No.26 in Canada, giving Celine five straight top 40 hit singles from the album!
The album that would become titled “Unison” was released in Celine’s home country in April 1990 and slowly, over the rest of the year, see shelves in record stores across the rest of the world. With the exception of Canada, “Unison” received an initially lukewarm reception, although once “Where Does My Heart Beat Now?” became a big hit in America, that changed somewhat. Surprisingly, “Unison” only reached No.15 in Canada, but has gone on to be seven times Platinum certified (Platinum is 100,000 copies there).
In the US, the album peaked at No.74, but has registered sales there to date of 1.2 million copies. It was only after Celine had become a true global megastar, that “Unison” began to sell in the mid-1990’s, where it has gone on to reach No.55 in the UK and sell 150,000 copies there, and a total of over three million copies worldwide. “Unison” was the ‘debut’ album in many ways for Celine and it paved the way for bigger fruit to follow. No sooner had the “Unison” era closed, Celine was back in the studio recording its follow up.
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