TORONTO (Billboard) - She may have sold more than 50 million albums worldwide, but after her last album in 2005, veteran singer Anne Murray pretty much retired. Or so she thought.
Murray’s break from a recording career that began in 1968 lasted only a couple of years, after EMI Music Canada president Deane Cameron launched what he jokingly calls “an intervention.”
“I’d been talking her out of retirement for a while,” he says. “I thought, ‘Let’s bring her in for lunch, sit her down and ambush her.”‘
Luckily for Cameron, Murray’s manager, Bruce Allen, had a concept he felt could swing her return: duetting with her peers on her own hits like “Snowbird” and “You Needed Me.”
The resulting “Duets: Friends and Legends” appeared November 13 in Canada on EMI Music, with a January U.S. release to follow.
But Murray says her first reaction to the proposal was mixed. “Initially I said, ‘I’ll think about it,”‘ the 62-year-old recalls. “I told them to come up with the producer and the singers, and if they could find someone who’s interested and interesting, I’d consider it.”
With producer Phil Ramone onboard, the album concept began to take shape. “One of my first reactions when this was suggested was ‘Why don’t we do an album of just women?”‘ Murray says. “They all said no. I just tucked (the idea) away — and then it turned out the people we were talking to were mostly women.”
The 17-track all-female set features such artists as Celine Dion, Amy Grant, Shelby Lynne, Carole King and Martina McBride.
Murray had performed with some of them before, while others — like Olivia Newton-John, who duets with Murray on “Cotton Jenny” — were less familiar. “I’d only met her once, in a washroom at the Grammys, and we were just talking between stalls,” Murray says. “But she was so well prepared for this song, and so together, (that) it was done in a flash.”
Following the Canadian press blitz, the promotional push will center on extensive North American live dates in 2008. “If I can still sing and still perform to my satisfaction,” Murray says, “I don’t mind touring.”
Murray’s last album, the standards set “I’ll Be Seeing You” (2005), was retitled “All of Me” for U.S. buyers. It has sold 150,000 copies in the States, according to Nielsen SoundScan. U.S. sales for its 2002 predecessor, “Country Croonin’,” stand at 241,000.
Regardless of the new album’s success, Murray says that as long as her voice remains vibrant, she could be talked back into the recording studio. “If I told you I was stopping, my friends would say, ‘Oh, yeah, we’ve heard that one before.”‘