Celine Dion

REVIEW: ‘These Are Special Times’ – Celine Dion

Celine Dion – “These Are Special Times”

by Christopher Smith

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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Written by Christopher Smith

So perhaps you’ve read an article or two that I’ve written and wondered “just who is this character?”! Well I thought maybe it would be time to introduce myself and what I’m all about. Well it’s all about the music! Having been born in the late 1970’s I was heavily influenced by my parent’s love of ‘popular’ music and rock and roll of the 1950’s and 60’s. My Mother always said she should of married Elvis and my father was, and is still, in love with Sandie Shaw! But while my Dad’s tastes stopped in about 1967, my Mum carried on loving music throughout the 70’s, 80’s and beyond. My first memory was playing on the floor whilst my Mother was ironing one day with the radio on, and hearing ABBA’s “Super Trouper” dancing my nappy off to it! Maybe that’s where it all went wrong…?! Having been subjected to all and sundry in my infant years, I finally found my feet in the mid-1980’s and began ‘partying’ to the likes of Culture Club, Stevie Wonder(!), Elkie Brooks and Bananarama to name but a few! The year 1987 would have a profound effect on my listening tastes and from thereon in my life would be dominated with buying and listening to music. Any number of outstanding songs were released and listened to that year, most notably “Nothing’s Gonna Stop Us Now”, “I Wanna Dance With Somebody” and “La Isla Bonita”. That Summer my mind was completely taken over with music and sounds I’d never heard before and I was totally taken in by it all. My father would say “whaaar rubbish you got on naaaaao?” (I’m from Norfolk!) but I was hooked. And it continued so for the rest of the decade and the next. At the beginning of 1988 I ‘met’ my true love and the singer I’ve worshipped more than any other artist or group. You may know of her. She’s from Australia…! Aside from pop music, my tastes are many and varied and continues to grow and expand as I ‘mature’ in age. I’ve always been heavily interested in films and in particular the mechanics of film making and of course film music, so scores and subsequently orchestral music takes up a lot of my tastes and collection. 90’s dance and club tunes also takes up much of the space in my head and I’m surprised my brain has stopped shaking from the years of abuse it took being dragged to nightclubs, often three times a week in my 20’s! I find with each year that passes I regress back to my youth and of course the 1980’s. 80’s music dominates and the lust to see as many 80’s acts and singers play live now is insatiable. I’m still getting into the groove as much as every breath I take, but I’m never gonna give up listening to my heart and pumping up the volume, simply because I LOVE MUSIC…any kind of music!

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