They are the most famous Céline Dion recordings that you’ve never heard. In the summer of 1995, at the height of her stardom, Dion went into the studio in Los Angeles with legendary producer Phil Spector to record tracks for her upcoming album Falling Into You. Paul Shaffer, the musical director on the Late Show with David Letterman, had called up Spector the year before and told him to watch that night’s show, which featured Dion singing River Deep, Mountain High, the classic Ike & Tina Turner hit produced by Spector.
The producer of hits by the Ronnettes, Crystals, the Beatles and the Ramones was immediately sold on Dion and so they ended up in the studio together the following year, along with the famous L.A. studio musicians known as The Wrecking Crew. But things went very badly between the notoriously bizarre Spector and the Dion team and soon after they dumped Spector as producer and went back to their regular producers, including David Foster. At one session, Spector had Dion singing the same song over and over again until the wee hours of the morning and the folks from Sony Music were in a fury, believing he could be harming her voice. Manager René Angélil also was not amused and he was the one who finally pulled the plug on the Spector project.
But there are apparently a couple of finished tracks from those sessions and Spector has threatened to release them, though that plan may be impeded by the fact that he’s serving 19-years-to-life sentence in a California prison for murder.
In 1996, he sent a lengthy letter to Entertainment Weekly blasting the Dion entourage. He described the other producers’ work on the album as “contrived and repugnant or nothing more than Whitney Houston- and Mariah Carey-rejected, soundalike songs … ‘produced’ by amateurs, students, and bad clones of yours truly.” He added: “You don’t tell Shakespeare what plays to write or how to write them.”
Article and photo: Montreal Gazette