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MUSIC: Celine and Anne Murray

Arts & Entertainment

MUSIC: Celine and Anne Murray

New albums are clichéd and bland
There's no denying it, Anne Murray and Celine Dion are two of the most famous and beloved Canadian icons. One walks like a football player and one insists on wearing her Dior suit ensemble backward. Murray sings smooth and simple, she's like baby bear's porridge... just right. Dion sings for her supper and yours... and your cousin Shirley's in Flin Flon. She can move mountains!

Dion and Murray have released new albums just in time for the holiday season. Either or both will undoubtedly find their way under every Christmas tree in our true north, strong and free.

Dion's is called Taking Chances. It's an album of new songs and new voices. I call it her Zelig album if you will. Zelig was Woody Allen's 1983 fictional documentary about the life of human chameleon Leonard Zelig. He becomes a celebrity due to his ability to look and act like whomever is around him.

Dion's voice morphs into whatever the production of the song requires. If it's pop, she channels Kelly Clarkson and all her American Idol girlfriends (who idolize Dion). If it's Bollywood/salsa sexiness you crave, Dion transforms into bodacious Shakira, boogying with her hips and getting down with her mouth.

The woman has the most amazing pipes but she's a diva whose only ambition in life is to please. Her emotions are pitch perfect. And that's the problem. Dion's songwriters throw her every tired cliché in the book. All of the songs will work great in the car ads for which they were probably written.

"Shadow of Love" is such a song. Dion is U2's Bono. There's a little rasp in her voice ('cause that's rock and roll) as she sings like she's really a cool indie rock chick. "I can run but I can't hide/ It's because/ I'm livin' in the shadow of love."

The one song that will fool your friends is "That's Just the Woman in Me". It's pretty amazing. If this were Meryl Streep we'd hand her an Oscar, Tony and a Grammy or two (we wouldn't want to make her have to choose). Actors are allowed to become someone else. Embody a character. True singers (save for Broadway performers) must stay true to themselves or we can't believe them.

As much as I hate Dion's Titanic song "My Heart Will Go On," at least that is 100 percent Dionness. "That's Just the Woman in Me" is all Janis Joplin. Dion is in there somewhere but you won't be able to find her. Gone is all her heart-pounding histrionics and in its place a gravelly drunken hard-edged grace. If she lived in Haight-Ashbury and rolled her own, it would be a solidly orgasmic performance. But she lives in Vegas and rolls her own makizushi. "But if you don't know by now that it's me anyhow," Dion wails. "Then baby you got it rough."

The woman is fucking bonkers.

Remember when grandmas had home permanents and wore cat-eye glasses and fried your eggs in bacon fat? (Yes, kids, it's true.) Sadly, that grandma is gone the way of the dodo. The new grand-ma look is 100 percent Anne Murray. My mom has the look. You know it: silver-streaked soft spiky hair, light powdery makeup and loose comfortable but dressy sweatpant ensembles. Love my mom. Love the look. Thanks Anne.

In a recent Globe and Mail profile Murray explicitly denied that she or any of her female golfing buddies are gay. Okay, whatever Anne.

Murray's new album is called Duets, Friends and Legends. It's an all-girl sleepover produced by music guru Phil Ramone (Johnny Cash, The Beastie Boys, Neil Diamond). All of Murray's hits (including "Snowbird," "You Needed Me" and "Danny's Song") are here, newly recorded with a support group of female performers including Shania Twain, Emmylou Harris, kd lang and, surprise, Celine Dion.

I never get the need for these silly duet albums. Why touch the perfection that is "Snowbird" and give it a generic elevator music rendering (with cutsie-poo Sarah Brightman no less)? It's a dreadful remake. Of course there hasn't been a good duet with a dead person for quite some time. So it's lovely to have Murray's nongay best bud Dusty Springfield join her on "I Just Fall in Love again."

The album just doesn't work. It's a bland boring exercise with no magical moments whatsoever. It's a pure old marketing ploy for the Christmas season. And tell me where does Murray get away singing with the nongay group The Indigo Girls and calling it a duet. Isn't it a threesome? I'm just sayin'.

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It's a review, not a decree
I wasn't going to comment, but changed my mind after reading seven other people's responses. My word, you would think the reviewer had just decreed a jihad. Let me get one thing off my conscience: I enjoy both Celine and Anne, at various times. Just not always nor through every song on a given album or with every production on a show. I liked Anne enough to go to a concert a second night, even though she told the same setup joke as if it were "fresh" and "spontaneous" when in fact it was scripted. I digress. They have talent and are enjoyable to me, but I wouldn't exactly call myself a big fan of either. That said, I'll probably get one or both albums. But the review, I found, was reasonable within the parameters of what a review is supposed to be -- but fans tend to forget that when their icons aren't worshipped. Even though I like Celine and Anne sufficiently to still give them a listen, I enjoyed the review quite a lot and even (gasp!) laughed out loud. People should simply enjoy their music without lashing out at those who don't share the same tastes. Instead of wasting time berating a reviewer, have a chuckle or two and then go and put the damn CD on. It's really very simple,: we just need to thank reviewers for their opinions and then carry on with our own.
Poor language & taste of review
First off, I love the new Anne Murray cd, kudos for her usual taste & style. I'm hoping to buy a copy of it for my partner who is American as I know he'll like it. I must admit I am very surprized at Xtra for allowing the use of certain words in a cd review. This is very unprofessional by any standpoint. I would like to think that Xtra would at least have some style in it's reviews
Dion's going on TOP again.
Celine's album is TOP NOTCH as everything else she touches. She is again working with incredible writers and producers. She will again conquer the world with this album and an endless list of awards as she always does. Just watch her! She is a World Class ACT all around and she is making us all proud in Quebec.
Thank God!!
Thank God that is only YOUR opinion.........If we all like the same?...I think they are terrific albums!!!...I read reviews but never pay attention to them, I form my own opinion.
Your reviews suck, just like you. Anne Murray's new album is full of magic: the duet with Dusty Springfield is hauntingly touching and beautiful. The duet with Emmylou Harris is pure vocal heaven. The Indigo Girls kick ass with Anne on their take of A little Good News. Shelby Lynn and Anne rock out on You won't see me and Nelly Furtado rings in a cute performance on Daydream Believer. You must have ear wax plugging your ears and something else plugging your butt. Anne Murray rules.PS Céline is cool also. Did I say you suck ?
Don't care about your grandma
Since we can't buy the new new Anne Murray CD in the States 'til January, you have the privilege of enjoying it first in Canada.

I've heard it played through an EMI Canada website, however, and must disagree with your opinion. A number of these new tracks help freshen some dated Anne recordings that were lightweight AM pop the first time around. And the Indigo Girls -- my gosh, if anything, they'll benefit from some renewed airplay. You're "just saying'" to pad a word count!

Too many reviewers once enraptured over "Tommy" or "Red Headed Stranger" think every album has to be a "concept" that works as "a whole." Few CDs ever do. And iPods and iTunes have made the idea of an "album" irrelevant. So, get over it.

Some of us appreciate Anne's voice just because she treats listeners with respect. She doesn't sound like a tomcat scratching its way up the CN Tower.

Thank you.
You said that "As much as [you] hate Dion's Titanic song My Heart Will Go On, at least that is 100 percent Dionness". You're right but i'm 100% sure that if she had stuck to that same old style again, you would have bashed her even more! When you hate someone, you just do hate and you can't just be objective. Too bad because it's a great album for Miss Dion.
Cliché review
Your review is so cliché, unlike Celine Dion's album. Taking Chances is Celine Dion's best English album EVER. Amazing songs and her voice is just outstanding. The reviewer didn't even mention that Ben Moody (ex-Evanesence) wrote and produced two amazing songs on this album, including This Time about an abused woman. And Ne-Yo wrote I Got Nothing Left, a piece of art. And Right Next to The Right One is a quiet and low-key Beatlesque song that will surprise everyone. Check this album out, you won't regret it.
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