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Celine - All the Way : A Decade of Song and Video
Sony Music Video/Sony BMG . R4 . COLOR . 81 mins . G . PAL

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Contract

There are those of us that like the music we listen to, whether it be pop, rock, classical, jazz or dance, to not only click with us emotionally, but also intellectually - the thrill of hearing a memorable melody and performance combined with the incomparable feeling of excitement at hearing something we’ve never heard before is something that’s intensely personal and massively rewarding.

And then there are those who don’t have time for a challenge, aren’t interested in new musical experience and prefer their music to come pre-packaged as something they can compare to what they know, understand without thinking and digest without effort. There’s nothing wrong with that, of course - some people are musically passionate, and some are not. For those that live and breathe music, though, Celine Dion is one of The Enemy. Pumping out power ballads and soft pop with effortless ease and a competent singing voice, Dion is everything that’s not exciting about music. A French Canadian, she spent some time doing the kind of cheese-pop that only existed outside the ‘80s in certain parts of Canada (early Alanis Morrisette, anyone?) until she met her future husband and manager Rene Angelil, who guided Dion’s career inexorably towards that genre that strikes fear into the hearts of anyone who thinks of music as more than mere wallpaper. Dion was to become an “Adult Contemporary” artist, and thanks to a duet with Peabo Bryson on Disney’s Beauty And The Beast soundtrack, she was about to swallow America whole.

All The Way is the companion video to Dion’s 1999 CD release of the same name, which followed fellow Sony artist Michael Jackson’s example in combining a retrospective compilation with a selection of newly recorded tracks. As a result, quite a few earlier hits are missing, though most of the recent chart fodder is here. The earlier material is very telling - the decidedly teen-oriented pop songs are represented on video by a very young-looking, long-haired Dion that’s a million miles away from her now-familiar “diva” image. Particularly amusing is the clip for Love Can Move Mountains - we dare you to watch the intro, where Dion rips off her top to reveal a leopard-skin bra and a painful pout, and not spend the next five minutes in hysterical laughter. But then, that’s the reaction to many of the clips here, which have a disturbing tendency to be inappropriate for the song they’re selling - as well as often trying to promote Dion as some kind of mature sex kitten, which suits neither the woman nor the tepid songs.

For this video version of All The Way, live versions have been substituted for some tracks - presumably because “directed” video clips were never made for those songs. Most of those live clips feature guest artists, including Terry Bradford, Taro Hakase and, scarily, a disembodied Frank Sinatra! (And yes, Natalie Cole did do the disembodied-duet thing first - what, you expected cutting-edge originality?)

Not at all a songwriter, Dion relies on others for her material, and the songwriters list here reads like a who’s-who of radio balladry - the omnipresent Diane Warren (who even wrote a turgid ballad for ex-Goth rockers The Cult last year!), Robert John “Mr Shania Twain” Lange, Jennifer Rush and Will Jennings are all represented here. And despite all this outside help, there are only two offerings out of the entire 17-song set that show any kind of spark - not surprisingly because they’re such atypical things for Dion to do. It’s All Coming Back To Me Now, written and produced by the inimitable Jim Steinman, is an epic such as only he can produce, and while it’s no Total Eclipse Of The Heart or Rock And Roll Dreams Come Through it is, as always with Steinman, wonderfully over-the-top and entertaining. Best of the field, though, is That’s The Way It Is. Written, played and recorded by Sweden’s masterful Cheiron Productions team, it’s as exuberant, hook-laden and sharply produced as the best of their work, with Dion reduced to a supporting role as vocalist (listen, by the way, for Australian pop person Leah Haywood in the backing vocal team here - she recorded her single Taking Back What’s Mine with members of Cheiron’s team at the same time, and presumably got drafted).

No-one, of course, can deny Dion’s right to do whatever she wants both musically and visually, and having sold over 125 million albums in the past decade (making her a millionaire countless times over even at the stingiest major-label non-songwriter royalty rate) she probably doesn’t give a toss what this reviewer thinks anyway. Certainly she has a huge following that hang on every over-emoted note she sings. That following will be well pleased to see the All The Way compilation on DVD, no doubt. Let’s take a look at what they’re in for.

Before we do, though, here's the track listing:

  1. The Power Of Love
  2. If You Asked Me To
  3. Misled
  4. Beauty And The Beast (Duet/Live)
  5. Because You Loved Me (Live)
  6. It's All Coming Back To Me Now
  7. Love Can Move Mountains
  8. To Love You More (Live)
  9. My Heart Will Go On
  10. I'm Your Angel (Duet)
  11. That's The Way It Is
  12. If Walls Could Talk
  13. The First Time Ever I Saw Your (Live)
  14. All The Way (Live)
  15. Then You Look At Me
  16. I Want You To Need Me
  17. Live For The One I Love

  Video
  Audio
  Extras
Contract

Not surprisingly, the material on this disc is full-frame and non-anamorphic, as it was originally produced. Video quality is reasonable overall, though the source material here has quite obviously been converted from an NTSC master, and as a result suffers in all areas - black levels, contrast, colour accuracy, resolution and all.

Audio is provided in two formats. The default is 16 bit, 48 KHz Linear PCM; re-dubbed for this compilation from high-quality masters, it sounds fine but is mastered at too low a level. The second audio track contains Dolby Digital 5.1 remixes of every single song, with remixing duties divided between well-regarded engineer Humberto Gatica (who does most of the work here) and Denis Savage; note that these are fresh surround remixes of recordings that were originally mixed by other people, and as such are very, very different to the originally released tracks. The remixes are very, very showy, making full use of the Dolby Digital soundstage, but are often exceptionally unsubtle compared to the originals. This 5.1 track is mastered at a substantially higher level than the stereo track, but thanks to the extensive use of the surrounds it does not downmix especially well to stereo. We’d recommend purists stick with the PCM Stereo track while those who want to show off their technology should go for the over-flamboyant 5.1 mixes.

Disturbingly, though, this disc has some serious technical flaws. The most noticeable is what appears to be a major digital videotape dropout on the master, which dramatically obliterates the picture from 17.43 to 17.45. Interestingly, while the PCM Stereo track drops out at the same time as the image at this point, the 5.1 track plays on without incident. This is a serious enough mastering problem - one which should have been caught by QC before the release discs were pressed - but then, so should the frequent audio sync problems throughout, which has the audio preceding the vision by a noticeable amount (though not on every clip - this could have been a problem that was introduced during the re-dubbing of audio tracks). And finally, those listening in 5.1 will get a substantial chance at heart failure during the end credits, as the audio from It’s All Coming Back To Me Now starts playing over the end credits, only to cut off mid-verse at the end of the crawl! The PCM Stereo track, meanwhile, is silent throughout the credits. It would, from all of this, appear that no one bothered to actually view the finished disc after authoring it - amazing, but undoubtedly true.

Extras-wise, there’s not much here. There’s a nine-text-page hype-laden record company-generated biography, a “discography” (including video releases) that only offers cover scans of each release with no track, performer or production details, a thirteen-image photo gallery (admirably displaying each image full-screen with no distractions) and an extended version of the It’s All Coming Back To Me Now clip running for 7 minutes and 43 seconds - a much more decent length for a Jim Steinman recording, whose best work always runs long. The audio for this bonus version of the clip is only available in PCM stereo.

A compilation that will doubtless please Celine’s many fans, All The Way is hardly a chronicle of cutting edge music - but then, that’s not what those buying this disc are here for. With so many technical problems on our review copy, though, it might be advisable to wait and see if this one gets remastered before buying.


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  •   And I quote...
    "A compilation that will doubtless please Celine’s many fans, All The Way is hardly a chronicle of cutting edge music - but then, that’s not what those buying this disc are here for."
    - Anthony Horan
      Review Equipment
    • DVD Player:
          Sony DVP-NS300
    • TV:
          Panasonic - The One
    • Receiver:
          Sony STR-AV1020
    • Speakers:
          Klipsch Tangent 500
    • Surrounds:
          Jamo
    • Audio Cables:
          Standard RCA
    • Video Cables:
          Monster s-video
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