First things first. Technically speaking, Celine Dion remains one of the most talented vocalists in the pop music universe. However, listening to 16 consecutive songs can be an endurance test for even the most ardent Celine fan. 14 of the songs here suffer, to various degrees, from leaning to the ordinary or seeming to lack in inspired artistic fire. However, they are sandwiched by 2 brilliant tracks that, sadly, give a hint of what Taking Chances might have been.
New Direction Is a Good Thing for Celine
The title song "Taking Chances," released in advance of the album, set the bar high for Celine Dion's return to English-language recording. A warm, strummed acoustic guitar opening eventually leads into a big pop production with just enough rock edge. Dion's vocals are commanding and powerful. The song opens the album and announces new directions in a truly exciting fashion. Unfortunately, too few of the songs hold up to that vision.
The biggest problem seems to be a lack of truly inspired material. At times Celine Dion seems to be trying out styles related to other artists, a touch of Shakira on the Middle Eastern-flavored "Eyes on Me," Christina Aguilera territory on "A Song for You," and a dull, paint-by-numbers cover of Heart's "Alone." The 2 Linda Perry contributions here seem to consist of a throwaway ("My Love") and an overwrought gospel song titled "New Dawn" that should have remained buried on Perry's obscure 1999 solo album After Hours. It is a tribute to Dion's voice that she makes these songs listenable.
Rock Holds Promise
Taking Chances demonstrates that rock could be a future area of great promise for Celine Dion. She glides into the showy crunch of "Can't Fight the Feelin'," co-produced by Aldo Nova and John Shanks, with gusto. Fans will want to see the entertaining video of Dion working on the tune in the studio at Amazon.com. It is also the rock elements that take the title song here to the next level. If everything had been a bit more relaxed, much of the album could have had the appeal of "I Got Nothin' Left" which features inimitable lyrics by Ne-Yo in a pleasingly restrained musical context.
Top Tracks from 'Taking Chances'
- Taking Chances
- Can't Fight the Feelin'
- I Got Nothin' Left
- The Skies of L.A.
What Do You Say to Jumping Off the Edge?
If you make it all the way to the end of Taking Chances, Celine Dion will quietly knock your socks off in the album's closer "The Skies of L.A." Written and produced by the team behind Rihanna's smash "Umbrella," a cleverly reflective lyric is delivered with stunning technical precision that simply glistens due to the quiet piano figure slowly propelling the song forward. This is truly where Celine Dion says yes to "taking chances." The next time it would be very exciting to see her say yes to "jumping off the edge."