These Are Special Times

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These Are Special Times
Studio album by Celine Dion
Released October 30, 1998 (1998-10-30)
(see release history)
Recorded 1998
Genre Christmas, pop
Length 68:27
Label Columbia, Epic
Producer Bryan Adams, David Foster, Humberto Gatica, R. Kelly, Tony Renis, Carole Bayer Sager, Ric Wake
Celine Dion chronology
S'il suffisait d'aimer
(1998)
These Are Special Times
(1998)
Au cœur du stade
(1999)
Singles from These Are Special Times
  1. "I'm Your Angel"
    Released: August 8, 1998
  2. "The Prayer"
    Released: March 1, 1999

These Are Special Times is the first English-language holiday album by Canadian singer Celine Dion. Released by Sony Music Entertainment on October 30, 1998, it features cover versions of popular Christmas tunes and original material. Dion worked with David Foster and Ric Wake, who produced most of the tracks for the album. Other producers include R. Kelly and Bryan Adams. Critics praised Dion's commitment to the recorded material, as well as the production of the songs.

These Are Special Times was released after two of Dion's most successful albums, Falling into You (1996) and Let's Talk About Love (1997). It includes the U.S. number-one single, "I'm Your Angel" (duet with R. Kelly) and the Golden Globe winning song, "The Prayer" (also featured in Quest for Camelot). These Are Special Times has sold 5,270,000 copies in the United States as of December 17, 2012 according to Nielsen SoundScan,[1] and has been certified five-times Platinum by the RIAA. In Canada, the album has shipped one million copies and has been certified Diamond by the CRIA. These Are Special Times has sold over twelve million copies worldwide and is one of the best-selling Christmas albums of all time.

Background[edit]

Celine Dion released two French-language Christmas albums in her early career: Céline Dion chante Noël (1981)[2] and Chants et contes de Noël (1983).[3] Later, in 1993, she recorded "The Christmas Song" which appears on David Foster's The Christmas Album.[4] The next year, Dion was featured on Alvin and the Chipmunks' "Petit Papa Noël" which is on their album A Very Merry Chipmunk.[5] In 1996, she recorded "Brahms' Lullaby" for the compilation For Our Children Too to benefit the Elizabeth Glaser Pediatric AIDS Foundation.[6] "The Christmas Song" and "Brahms' Lullaby" were included on These Are Special Times in 1998.

Content[edit]

A 27-second sample of "The Prayer," duet with Andrea Bocelli.

Problems playing this file? See media help.

Celine Dion worked on These Are Special Times with her longtime partners David Foster and Ric Wake, who produced most of the songs. The album contains seven original compositions: "Don't Save It All for Christmas Day" (co-written by Celine Dion;[7] covered by Avalon in 2000[8] and Clay Aiken in 2004[9]), "Another Year Has Gone By" (written and produced by Bryan Adams), a solo version of "The Magic of Christmas Day" (recorded in 1999 as a duet with Rosie O'Donnell and included on a charity album, A Rosie Christmas),[10] "The Prayer" (duet with Andrea Bocelli; each artist sang it solo on the 1998 soundtrack to Quest for Camelot),[7] "Christmas Eve," "These Are the Special Times" (written by Diane Warren; covered by Christina Aguilera in 2000[11]) and "I'm Your Angel" (duet with R. Kelly, written and produced by Kelly). Other tracks include inspired arrangements of standards like "O Holy Night," "Blue Christmas" (Diana Krall on acoustic piano), "Adeste Fideles," "Ave Maria" and new versions of the modern classics "Happy Xmas (War Is Over)" and "Feliz Navidad."[7] On the latter track and "Les cloches du hameau," Dion is joined by her family.[12] In October 2007, the album was re-released as a Collector's Edition that includes a DVD of Dion's CBS television special for These Are Special Times.[12]

Promotion[edit]

Celine Dion promoted the album in the United States with a television special which aired on CBS on November 25, 1998.[13] It included two musical guests: Andrea Bocelli on "The Prayer" and Rosie O'Donnell on "Do You Hear What I Hear?."[12] Dion also performed album tracks ("O Holy Night," "These Are the Special Times"), her number-one hits ("The Power of Love," "Because You Loved Me," "My Heart Will Go On"), as well as favorites ("Let's Talk About Love," "The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face").[12] These Are Special Times was a television ratings champion, ranking number-one for the night[13] and drawing an audience of more than sixteen million viewers.[14] The show was nominated for two Emmy Awards.[12] Celine Dion and Andrea Bocelli also performed "The Prayer" at the 41st Grammy Awards on February 24, 1999[15] and at the 71st Academy Awards on March 21, 1999.[16]

Singles[edit]

A 30-second sample of "I'm Your Angel," duet with R. Kelly.

Problems playing this file? See media help.

"I'm Your Angel" was released as the first single from the album. It became Dion's fourth number-one on the U.S. Billboard Hot 100,[17] topping the chart for six consecutive weeks.[18] On December 9, 1998, it was certified Platinum by the RIAA for shipment of one million copies in the United States.[19] The song was also successful in Europe, peaking at number three in the United Kingdom.[20] In March 1999, "The Prayer" (duet with Andrea Bocelli) was sent to adult contemporary radio stations in the United States[15] and peaked at number twenty-two on the Hot Adult Contemporary Tracks.[21] In February 2008, Dion recorded a live version of this song in a duet with Josh Groban.[22] Thanks to the digital sales, the track entered the Billboard Hot 100 at number seventy.[23]

Reception[edit]

Critical reception[edit]

Professional ratings
Review scores
Source Rating
Allmusic 3/5 stars[24]
Billboard (favorable)[25]
Entertainment Weekly B−[26]

These Are Special Times garnered generally positive reviews from music critics. Paul Verna from Billboard gave it a very positive review, praising Dion's maturity and the album's production.[25] He wrote, "sounding at complete ease and wielding a wildly creative wand, an ever-maturing Dion conjures up surprise on what should be regarded as her next "big" album."[25] Verna noted that this "grade-A effort" is "no ordinary holiday project."[25] He praised "grandiose versions of standards" ("O Holy Night," "Adeste Fideles"), "modern classics" ("Happy Xmas (War Is Over)," "Feliz Navidad") and "thoughtfully produced original compositions" ("Another Year Has Gone By," "Don't Save It All for Christmas Day").[25] According to him, other highlights include "The Prayer," a "gorgeous duet" with Andrea Bocelli, the "Phil Spector-esque" "Christmas Eve," and a "sparkling reading" of "Ave Maria."[25]

Chuck Taylor from Billboard also praised "I'm Your Angel," a duet with R. Kelly. He wrote that "this wonderfully restrained ballad delights with the most graceful vocal performances either of these artists has ever offered to radio."[27] Taylor commented, "what raises the roof is the tune's elegant, epic instrumental base, which includes sweeping strings, a soulful choir, and gentle but determined percussive drive."[27] He continued, that "I'm Your Angel" "sells big at the bridge, where the instrumentation drops and Kelly and Dion harmonize in a gorgeous minor key – it truly makes the song."[27] Chuck Taylor also reviewed "The Prayer", calling it "a breathtaking, ultra-lush song, and the tour de force combination of Dion and Bocelli [which] will send a half-dozen chills up your spine."[15] Although he felt that the song is "an unorthodox track for the radio", Taylor called it "affecting," "heartwarming," "absolutely exquisite" and "one of Dion's most radiant performances ever."[15]

Stephen Thomas Erlewine of Allmusic stated that "any fan of Dion, or of '90s adult contemporary pop in general, should find this [album] very enjoyable."[24] Although according to him, "at times, the production is too slick" and "at other times Dion's vocals are a little mannered," overall, These Are Special Times "is very effective, because the songs are good and she's committed to the material."[24] Erlewine wrote that These Are Special Times is "an especially successful holiday album since Dion wisely balances" popular carols ("Blue Christmas," "The Christmas Song," "Feliz Navidad") with new songs ("I'm Your Angel," "Don't Save It All for Christmas"), hymns ("Adeste Fideles," "Ave Maria"), and Christmas songs with a distinct religious theme ("The Prayer," "O Holy Night")."[24]

Commercial reception[edit]

These Are Special Times debuted at number four on the U.S. Billboard 200, selling 126,000 copies.[28] The next week, it became a greatest gainer, jumping to number three and selling 163,000 units.[29] In its third week, despite selling 210,000 copies, These Are Special Times fell to number five.[17] In the fourth week, thanks to Dion's CBS television special, the album rose to number three, with a 94% sales increase (409,000 copies) becoming a greatest gainer again.[13] The next week, it moved to its peak position on the Billboard 200, number two, with sales of 366,000 units.[30] These Are Special Times tied Amy Grant's 1992 Home for Christmas as the highest-charting holiday album ever by a female artist.[31] It stayed at number two for the second week, selling 413,000 copies.[32] In the seventh week, These Are Special Times reached its highest weekly sales of 462,000 copies, despite falling to number three.[32] In the last week inside the top ten, the album fell to number five selling another 461,000 copies.[33] On the Top Holiday Albums, it topped the chart for nine consecutive weeks.[34]

These Are Special Times became the best-selling holiday album of 1998 in the U.S. with a total of 2,684,000 copies sold.[31] Dion's album also sold more copies in its first year of release than any other holiday album by a female artist.[31] On December 6, 2005, the album was certified five-times Platinum by the RIAA for shipment of five million copies in the U.S.[19] On November 16, 2008, it also became the first holiday album by a female artist to top the five million mark in Nielsen SoundScan history.[35] These Are Special Times is also the highest selling Christmas album by an artist born outside the U.S.[36] It is the fourth best-selling Christmas album of the entire Nielsen SoundScan era with U.S. sales of over 5,270,000 copies.[37]

In Canada, These Are Special Times peaked at number one.[38] The album shipped one million copies and was certified Diamond by the CRIA.[39] In Japan, the album reached number four[40] and exceeded sales of more than 500,000 copies.[41] These Are Special Times was also successful in Australasia and Europe, hitting the top ten in most countries and peaking at number one in Switzerland[42] and Norway.[42] It has sold over twelve million copies worldwide, and is one of the best-selling Christmas album of all time.[43]

Awards[edit]

These Are Special Times received the 1999 Japan Gold Disc Award for International Pop Album of the Year.[44] At the 56th Golden Globe Awards, "The Prayer" won the award for Best Original Song.[44] "I'm Your Angel" and "The Prayer" were nominated for the Grammy Award for Best Pop Collaboration with Vocals at the 41st[45] and 42nd Grammy Awards,[46] respectively. "The Prayer" was also nominated for the Academy Award for Best Original Song at the 71st Academy Awards.[47]

Track listing[edit]

No. Title Writer(s) Producer(s) Length
1. "O Holy Night"   Traditional David Foster 5:21
2. "Don't Save It All for Christmas Day"   Peter Zizzo, Ric Wake, Celine Dion Wake 4:37
3. "Blue Christmas"   Jay Johnson, Bill Hayes Foster 3:48
4. "Another Year Has Gone By"   Bryan Adams, Eliot Kennedy Adams 3:24
5. "The Magic of Christmas Day, God Bless Us Everyone"   Dee Snider Wake 4:17
6. "Ave Maria"   Franz Schubert Foster 4:55
7. "O Come All Ye Faithful"   Traditional Foster 4:43
8. "The Christmas Song (Chestnuts Roasting on an Open Fire)"   Mel Tormé, Robert Wells Foster 4:13
9. "The Prayer" (duet with Andrea Bocelli) Carole Bayer Sager, Foster, Alberto Testa, Tony Renis Foster, Renis, Bayer Sager 4:29
10. "Cradle Song"   Johannes Brahms Foster 3:32
11. "Christmas Eve"   Maria Christensen, Curtis Frasca Wake 4:16
12. "These Are the Special Times"   Diane Warren Foster 4:08
13. "Happy Xmas, War Is Over"   John Lennon, Yoko Ono Wake 4:14
14. "I'm Your Angel" (duet with R. Kelly) R. Kelly R. Kelly 5:31
15. "Feliz Navidad"   José Feliciano Wake, Humberto Gatica 3:40
16. "Les cloches du hameau"   Brahms Wake 3:10

Charts and certifications[edit]

Credits and personnel[edit]

Credits taken from Allmusic.[87]

  • Bryan Adams – arranger, bass, composer, guitar, producer, string arrangements
  • Tawatha Agee – vocals (background)
  • Steve Amerson – vocals (background)
  • Morgan Ames – vocals (background)
  • Randy Andos – trombone
  • Jane Barnett – vocals (background)
  • David Barratt – production coordination
  • Tony Black – programming
  • Juan Bohorquez – assistant engineer, mixing assistant
  • Dick Bolks – vocals (background)
  • Alfred Bosco – assistant engineer
  • Jeff Bova – programming
  • Robert Bowker – vocals (background)
  • Jimmy Bralower – drum programming
  • Troy Bright – vocals (background)
  • Martin Briley – vocals (background)
  • Chris Brooke – assistant engineer
  • Alexandra Brown – choir, chorus
  • Bridgette Bryant – choir, chorus
  • Sharon Bryant – vocals (background)
  • Bob Buckley – conductor, string arrangements
  • Amick Byram – vocals (background)
  • Bob Cadway – engineer
  • Richie Cannata – sax (tenor), saxophone
  • Johnnie Carl – arranger
  • Elin Carlson – vocals (background)
  • Patrick Carroll – drum programming, guitar (bass), percussion
  • Carmen Carter – choir, chorus
  • Lafayette Carthon, Jr. – conductor, keyboards, vocals (background)
  • Sue Ann Carwell – vocals (background)
  • John Chiodini – guitar, guitar (electric)
  • Maria Christensen – composer, vocals (background)
  • Dennis Collins – vocals (background)
  • Crystal Cathedral Choir – choir
  • Barry Danielian – trumpet
  • Donna Davidson – vocals (background)
  • Nathan Dean – mixing assistant
  • Russ DeSalvo – guitar
  • John Doelp – executive producer
  • Chuck Domanico – bass
  • Terence Dover – engineer
  • Felipe Elgueta – engineer, programming
  • Gary Falcone – choir, chorus
  • David Foster – arranger, composer, keyboards, piano, producer
  • Bob Franceschini – sax (alto)
  • Simon Franglen – synclavier
  • Roger Freeland – vocals (background)
  • Yvonne Gage – vocals (background)
  • Humberto Gatica – engineer, mixing
  • Ayuana George – vocals (background)
  • Stephen George – programming
  • Diva Gray – vocals (background)
  • Nikki Gregoroff – vocals (background)
  • Don Hachey – mixing assistant
  • Andy Haller – assistant engineer
  • Jeff Hamilton – drums
  • Brian Harding – assistant engineer, mixing assistant
  • Linda Harmon – vocals (background)
  • Bill Harris – sax (alto)
  • Don Harris – trumpet
  • Dan Hetzel – engineer
  • Loris Holland – conductor, keyboards, organ (Hammond), vocal arrangement, vocals (background)
  • Jimmy Hoyson – assistant engineer
  • Ronn Huff – arranger
  • Nancey Jackson – vocals (background)
  • Bashiri Johnson – vocals (background)
  • Tony Kadleck – trumpet
  • Shane Keister – arranger, handbell arrangement, piano, synclavier
  • Khris Kellow – vocals (background)
  • R. Kelly – arranger, composer, performer, producer
  • Rick Kerr – engineer
  • Curtis King – vocals (background)
  • Darlene Koldenhoven – vocals (background)
  • Diana Krall – piano
  • John Kurlander – engineer
  • Rick Logan – vocals (background)
  • Susie Stevens Logan – vocals (background)
  • Lisa Lougheed – vocals (background)
  • Jeremy Lubbock – arranger, string arrangements
  • Vito Luprano – executive producer
  • Johnny Mandel – orchestral arrangements
  • Ethan Mates – mixing assistant
  • Rob Mathes – conductor, orchestral arrangements
  • Paulette McWilliams – vocals (background)
  • Ozzie Melendez – trombone
  • Chieli Minucci – guitar
  • Cindy Mizelle – vocals (background)
  • Robert Moe – vocals (background)
  • Jeffrey Morrow – vocals (background)
  • Rob Murphy – assistant engineer, mixing assistant
  • Jake Ninan – assistant engineer
  • Rafael Padilla – percussion
  • Bobbi Page – choir, chorus
  • Shawn Pelton – drums
  • Randy Phillips – choir, chorus
  • Louis Price – choir, chorus
  • Tom Rainer – synthesizer
  • Jeffrey Ramsey – choir, chorus
  • Anthony Ransom – vocals (background)
  • Dave Reitzas – engineer
  • Cathy Richardson – vocals (background)
  • John "J.R." Robinson – drums
  • Robin Robinson – vocals (background)
  • Stevie Robinson – vocals (background)
  • Olle Romo – programming
  • William Ross – arranger, orchestral arrangements
  • Kamil Rustam – guitar (acoustic)
  • Johnny Rutledge – vocals (background)
  • Larry Salzman – guitar
  • John Scarpulla – sax (baritone)
  • Al Schmitt – engineer
  • David Shackney – engineer
  • Don Shelton – vocals (background)
  • Marc Shulman – guitar
  • Ira Siegel – guitar
  • Steve Skinner – arranger, drum programming, keyboard programming
  • Ramón Stagnaro – guitar (acoustic)
  • Randy Staub – engineer
  • Aya Takemura – mixing assistant
  • Chris Taylor – guitar
  • David Taylor – trombone (bass)
  • Vaneese Thomas – vocals (background)
  • Michael Thompson – guitar (electric)
  • Fonzi Thornton – vocals (background)
  • UB Tirado – mixing assistant
  • Terry Trotter – piano
  • Rob Trow – vocals (background)
  • Eric Troyer – vocals (background)
  • Carmen Twillie – choir, chorus, vocals (background)
  • Vancouver Orchestra – strings
  • Gary Van Pelt – engineer
  • Jeff Vereb – mixing assistant
  • Frank Vilardi – drums
  • Ric Wake – arranger, composer, producer
  • Joan Walton – vocals (background)
  • Spencer Washington – vocals (background)
  • John West – vocals (background)
  • Phil Western – engineer, keyboards, programming, string arrangements
  • Brenda White-King – vocals (background)
  • George Whitty – engineer, keyboard arrangements, synthesizer arrangements
  • Cheryl Wilson – vocals (background)
  • Elisabeth Withers – vocals (background)
  • Steve Wolf – drums
  • Thomas R. Yezzi – engineer
  • Peter Zizzo – arranger, bass programming, composer, drum programming, guitar, keyboard programming

Release history[edit]

Region Date Label Format Catalog
Europe[88] October 30, 1998 Columbia CD COL 492730 2
Japan[89] October 31, 1998 Epic ESCA-7390
United States[24] November 3, 1998 550, Epic BK 69523
Australia[90] November 6, 1998 Columbia 4926512
United States[91] October 2, 2007 Legacy Recordings CD/DVD 88697 15575 2
Europe[92] November 2, 2007
Japan[93] November 21, 2007 EICP-882~EICP-883
Australia[90] December 8, 2007 88697 15575 2

See also[edit]

References[edit]

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