Capturing Passion, Pursuing Perfection
Dec 1, 2012 9:00 AM, Mix, By Blair Jackson
Recording Celine Dion’s Vocals
With sales of more than 200 million albums worldwide, Celine Dion is already the most popular female singer of all time, and at just 44, she should have many more years of hits ahead of her. The French-Canadian chanteuse is still probably best known for “My Heart Will Go On,” the Grammy- and Oscar-winning smash from the top-grossing film in history, Titanic. But she had already notched a number of big hits in both English and French by the time that came out in 1997, and in the years since she’s made one best-seller after another, collaborated with many other top artists in genres ranging from opera to pop to hip-hop, and firmly established herself as arguably the most successful singer in the world. Her shows routinely sell out in the U.S., South America, Europe, Asia and Australia, and her current residency at Caesar’s Palace in Las Vegas (her second such multi-year stint there) remains one of the hottest tickets in town.
Now, five years after her last albums were released, Dion has two new ones to drop on her adoring public. Just out for her millions of French-speaking fans is Sans Attendre (“without waiting”), a 16-song set produced by Jacques Veneruso, David Gategno, Scott Price, Bertrand Lamblot and Stanislas; executive produced by Valerie Michelin. It contains duets with legendary French singer Johnny Hallyday, Jean-Pierre Ferland and a “virtual” duet with the late Henri Salvador. The first single, “Parler à mon père,” is a hit in several countries. In February comes her latest English-language album, Water and a Flame, which features productions by Babyface, Eg White, longtime collaborator Humberto Gatica, Fraser T. Smith, Eman, Denis Savage (Dion’s tour manager and FOH engineer) and Tricky Stewart; executive produced by John Doelp. That album will combine songs that appear in her Las Vegas show with a number of new tunes.
Because of Dion’s extremely busy schedule, recording for the two discs was spread out over about a year, with the producers working up tracks in their respective studios followed by a number of multi-day vocal sessions with Dion at three different facilities: Studio at the Palms in Las Vegas (Studio X, the Neve VSP72 tracking room), Studio Piccolo in Montreal (Studio A has an SSL Duality) and Echo Beach Studios in Jupiter, Florida (just a few minutes from Dion’s house), equipped with a Euphonix System 5 off of Studio A.
For the past several years, Dion’s vocal engineer and producer liaison has been Francois Lalonde, a native of Montreal who started his career as a live engineer while still in his teens, and gravitated to studio work in his early 20s. “Humberto [Gatica] was in Montreal doing A New Day Has Come with Celine,” Lalonde says, “and at that point [late 2001] you needed someone to run Pro Tools and to take care of other studio stuff, and they chose me. I also helped Humberto record the vocals. Afterwards, when the mixing came along, it was being done at Westlake [in L.A.] and I actually wasn’t supposed to go, but when we finished doing the vocals, Humberto called me and said, ‘You should come down and keep on doing what you’re doing.’ So that’s what I did, and I’ve been with them ever since. Humberto’s one of the best; I was very fortunate to learn my trade from him.”
Lalonde certainly gets around, shuttling between L.A., Las Vegas (where he does monitors for Dion’s show), Montreal and also touring with Dion. And though the singer keeps him busy, he also has a thriving career as an independent engineer and has worked with such popular artists as Garou, British singer Seal and Michael Bublé.
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