Sunday, February 3, 2008

Book Review : Celine Dion's Let's Talk about Love : A Journey to the end of Taste by Carl Wilson ( 33 1/3 , No. 52)

Celine Dion Encounter No 1

November 1994. I had just bought the double cassette compilation Now 29 ( I was a fourth former/eleventh grader - Cd's were a huge luxury back then) and I was liking it.In 1994 I had a 'like everything' attitude ( In a way I still wish I had that now) and I loved the first cassette - which was a mixture of rave and the first seeds of the Britpop movement, which absorbed me six months later oh yeah Louis Armstrong , New Order and the Rolling Stones featured . The second cassette focused more on Dancehall,soul and some chart pop. Right after a semi boring cover of Marvin Gaye's 'What's going on' there came the one and only song I hated on that compilation. Celine Dion's 'The Power of Love'. It was the most nauseating thing to ever assault my eardrums. Too dramatic, srupy, voice was way too high and it seemed to take ages to finish. As I hate skipping tracks or fast forwarding songs ( I believe in listening to something as a whole- something which has never changed) I would always cringe and shudder everytime I would hear Dion's voice introducing that ghastly ditty.

Celion Dion Encounter No 2


yes those two years were a dark period. I was in 6th form ( a sort of pre university course to train you for A levels) and I hated it. Obviously as perfect timing would have it, Dion released her Jim Steinmann produced 'It's all coming back to me now'Again I destested it,probably even more cause Dion invaded the radios, the 6th form canteen and every public place on this island. Yes there was a brief lull in 1997 but Dion rebounded with 'My Heart will go on', which was on mtv , blaring out of every car radio and of course, that musical cultural milieu called the 6th form canteen. I remember one particular tortorus session where the bus that took us to 6th form played Celine Dions 1997 opus 'Let's talk about love' in full. There was a traffic jam so we were lucky enough to hear it twice.

Celine Dion Encounter No 3

I'm browsing the 33 1/3 blog - Something I do on a daily basis and I find a youtube clip of Final Fantasy (aka Owen Pallet) covering... wait for it. 'The Power of Love. A full circle. This time round, However something dawned on me.

The song is good. It was the arrangements and delivery that irritated me in the past.

The youtube clip was part of 33 1/3's 52nd volume of it's ongoing series of books about music criticism (criticism in the loosest terms) . In this case the launch was for Carl Wilson's book on Celine Dion's 'Let's Talk about Love'.

Since I have every volume in the series ( in fact the Tom Waits and Throbbing gristle books are next and will each get a review in this blog) and I look forward to each one but I have to admit I was excited about this particular volume as 1) I read the first two chapters and thought they were first class 2) Wilson is actually talking about an album of an artist he cannot stand. Which is quite original as the past 51 volumes focus on albums that the particular author likes.

Wilson aim in the book's brief 164 pages is to critically reassess his view on Celine Dion. Why he and many others dislike her and alternatively why she is loved all over the world. In his quest he interviews fans , attends a concert and buys the album and reviews it and comes up with some interesting conclusions.

Personally I think that the sign of a good music crit book is when it manages to transcend it's main subject and give a more relative aspect and Wilson manages this perfectly. .In his 'Journey to the end of Taste' we learn about song culture in Quebec, the roots of popular music in general, the basis of fandom, objective and subjective criticism the globalisation of music in general and obviously taste.

What also is another plus point about the book is Wilson's impeccable prose. I could spend the rest of the day writing down the sheer quotability of nearly each line of the tome. There were many times where I was laughing out loud and then re-read the passage and laugh again. I simply adored the line

....until Titanic overturned all proportion and Dions' ululating tonsils dilated to swallow the world' ( pg 4)

and there are many more where that came from! Wilson has the knack of taking a complex subject and simplifying it without the subject losing any of it's potency. Take a peek on the treatise of taste in the last few pages of the book and you'll see that Wilson's proverbial pen is mightier than the sword.

'Let's Talk about Love : A Journey to the end of Taste' is one of the highpoints of the 33 1/3 series ( I would include Kim Cooper's book on Neutral Milk Hotel's In an Aeroplane Over the Sea, Alex Green's Book on the Stone Roses debut and Eliot Wilders' volume on Dj. Shadow's Entroducing). In every aspect. Content, writing and criticism. An excellent all rounder and a book that makes me appreciate and love the 33 1/3 series even more.

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