The making of DUETS: friends & legends
After her mother's death, Anne continued to work hard finding a comfortable balance
between her career and her personal life with family and friends (including her passion
for golf). Then, in the fall before she began her annual U.S. and Canada Christmas tour,
she was called to a meeting with her manager Bruce Allen, EMI Music Canada's president
Deane Cameron and other leading music industry personnel. "I had made it clear that I
was not going to do another album – that's why I called my 2004 album
I'll be seeing you,"
Anne says, laughing. "So this meeting was an intervention, of sorts."
"They wanted me to do a duets album with some of my favourite singers – but that
list is much too long. Suddenly I thought of the possibilities of doing one with just
women on it; no one else had done that, as far as I knew."
- Anne Murray
As her newly balanced lifestyle flew out the window, Anne began working on her 35th album,
Anne Murray DUETS: friends & legends.
It debuted in November 2007 at #4 of the
Top 200 Soundscan Chart in Canada
– Anne's highest debut in more than 20 years. DUETS:
friends & legends debuted at #8 on Billboard's Country Chart, #42 on Billboard's Top
200 Album chart and #3 on Billboard's Internet Chart; was nominated for a Juno in the
"Pop Album of the Year" category; and was certified double platinum in Canada in the
first five months of its release.
Recorded with famed New York-based engineer/producer Phil Ramone in Toronto, Los
Angeles, Nashville and Atlanta, Anne shared some of her favourite musical moments
in her career with leading female vocalists in pop and country. Her friends &
legends duet partners included, in order of appearance on the CD: Martina McBride
(Danny's Song), Dusty Springfield (I Just Fall In Love Again), Emmylou Harris
(Another Pot O' Tea), Nelly Furtado (Daydream Believer), Jann Arden (Somebody's
Always Saying Goodbye), Celtic Woman (Song For The Mira), Carole King (Time Don't
Run Out On Me), Olivia Newton-John (Cotton Jenny), k.d. lang (A Love Song), Shania
Twain (You Needed Me), Dawn Langstroth (Nobody Loves Me Like You Do), Shelby Lynne
(You Won't See Me), Amy Grant (Could I Have This Dance), Indigo Girls (A Little Good
News), Sarah Brightman (Snowbird), Celine Dion (When I Fall In Love), and Isabelle
Boulay (Si Jamais Je Te Revois/If I Ever See You Again).
With 14 Grammy Awards and an Emmy, Phil's production dossier includes Billy Joel,
Sir Elton John, Sir Paul McCartney, Paul Simon, Phoebe Snow, Tony Bennett, and
Barbra Streisand, as well as his timeless recordings of Frank Sinatra (Duets I & II)
and memorable soundtracks for Midnight Cowboy, Yentl and Flash Dance.
Phil noted that working with Anne for the first time was an easy task. "What I love
about Anne is there are no words minced about whatever she feels," he says. "This
is not a person you have to think, 'Will she tell me the truth?' When we met for a
few hours in Michigan before we started, we agreed we wanted to bring some daring
ideas and some freshness to this album."
To Anne's delight, her daughter Dawn Langstroth was also an enthusiastic
participant in the project, helping choose the album's repertoire and the duet
partners, recording versions of the songs with Anne as thumbnail sketches for
the women, singing Nobody Loves Me Like You Do as a duet with her mom and providing
back-up vocals on some tracks with her brother, Will Langstroth.
"Dawn was involved right from the outset," says Anne proudly. "She helped me figure
out whose voice would best suit which song. She has an extraordinary ear for that
kind of thing."
Anne then contacted each of the performers herself. "What became clear was that
everyone who was involved really wanted to be…and that was nice," she added in her
Shania Twain responded by e-mail from New Zealand almost immediately. She wrote: "I'm honoured that you asked me to do this. You have been admired by me and everyone
I know my whole life."
Her song of choice was You Needed Me, the best-selling recording of Anne's career.
It was responsible for Anne's first Grammy as a pop artist in 1978 for Best Pop Vocal
Performance, Female. "I was so pleased with Shania's selection and, of course, I love
the sound of her voice," Anne says. "You Needed Me was my most important Grammy
because it moved me out of the country music genre, where I was becoming pigeon holed,
and into the pop category with the likes of Barbra Streisand, Olivia Newton-John and
"My manager Bruce Allen won't want me to say that it's my last album, but I'm kind
of inclined that way. But I don't know…I thought I wouldn't be doing this one, so
obviously I'm an easy mark and can be talked into doing almost anything! "
- Anne Murray in her video interview
Together, Anne and Phil decided they would treat the songs on their own terms and not adhere
rigidly to the arrangements of Anne's classic versions. While she had designs on how she
imagined the arrangements, she gave Phil free rein to rework the songs. "We approached
the sessions as if we were just handed these songs and told to make this record,"
he explains. "While arrangements were changed, there are also licks on some songs that I
didn't mess with. We stayed true to the song."
Another part of the DUETS: friends & legends album's "freshness" is seen on the jacket
sleeve, where most of the "ladies of song" share personal comments about their chosen
duet and how they feel about Anne and her music. This approach provides an interesting,
unique perspective on each piece.
Click the link on the right for video interviews with some of the performers.