Talk about a well-kept secret…
Throughout his too-short life, vocalist Warren Wiebe (1953-1998) never became a household name. Yet he was highly successful. As a background singer, he graced recordings by Johnny Mathis, Paul Anka, Taylor Dayne, and Air Supply. A true songwriter’s singer – able to convey the heart and soul of a song without resorting to self-indulgence – he earned the respect and admiration of a “Who’s Who” of songwriters who enlisted him to introduce their songs on private demonstration recordings. Among Wiebe’s biggest fans were Burt Bacharach, David Foster, Tom Snow, and Steve Dorff, all of whom are represented on an exciting new volume from the Spain-based Contante & Sonante label. Original Demos Featuring Warren Wiebe is a sublime introduction for those who don’t know his resonant, soulful voice, and a welcome reminder of his artistry for those who do. A limited edition of 1,000 units, it brings together 14 tracks (eight previously unreleased) from a singer respected by talents from Quincy Jones to Celine Dion.
David Foster and Burt Bacharach are said to have “discovered” Wiebe, and so, both have naturally contributed demos to this project. (Foster is the subject of Contante & Sonante’s 2009 release Fly Away: The Songs of David Foster, while Bacharach’s largely unsung compositions with lyricist Tonio K were featured on their volume of Original Demos last year). Note that these are fully-produced demos, not simply voice-and-piano performances. “The Colour of My Love” by Foster and “primal scream” therapist-turned-lyricist Dr. Arthur Janov famously became the title track of Celine Dion’s multi-platinum 1993 Columbia Records smash; Wiebe’s original demo presented here prompted the chanteuse to exclaim, “I can’t sing that song after that man!” per Foster in the liner notes. “The Colour of My Love” is joined by Foster and ex-wife Linda Thompson’s “Live Each Day,” which bears the producer-songwriter’s gentle melodic hallmarks. (An instrumental version of the song was heard on Foster’s 1994 album Love Lights the World.) Wiebe’s expressive, pliable voice could be both sweet and powerful, and he deftly navigated the contours of tricky Bacharach melodies like “Never Take That Chance Again” (also included on Original Demos) and the previously unreleased “Love Made Me Wait.” Co-written with Tonio K and Dave Loggins of “Please Come to Boston” fame, the latter demo was cut in 1996 but the song never received an official recording. Wiebe’s silky vocals make a strong case for the lithe song and its catchy, quintessentially Bacharach chorus.
Linda Thompson recurs as co-writer of the ballad “A Little Thing Called Life,” one of two songs from composer Steve Dorff reprised from his Original Demos volume. Dorff’s sleek “The Echo of Your Whisper,” co-authored with Larry Herbstritt and Andrew Dorff, exemplifies the R&B-tinged brand of adult contemporary at which Wiebe excelled. Tom Snow has supplied two tracks here. “You’re Welcome In My Life,” from his Snow’s Original Demos disc, boasts a touching lyric by the late, great Gerry Goffin in which the narrator reiterates his love for the woman who’s leaving him. It’s one of the strongest selections here, with its soaring melody passionately sung by Wiebe. Snow’s second demo, the uptempo “Spend a Little Time with You,” was written for the 1993 film Undercover Blues but not used in the film. It’s sung by Wiebe as a duet with Little Feat vocalist Shaun Murphy, a.k.a. Stoney of the Motown duo Stoney and Meatloaf. (Yes, that Meat Loaf!) It has a joyful roadhouse feel aided by James Harrah’s guitar.
Two tracks have been culled from Contante & Sonante’s Original Demos collection from the team of Scott Fuller and Cecily Gardner. Wiebe channels Stevie Wonder at his most tender over a bed of Foster-esque MOR keyboards on the driving “17 Years,” while he’s joined by Gardner on the romantic power ballad “Nothing That I Wouldn’t Do.” The collection’s final quartet of tracks come from composers Guy Thomas (Carly Simon, Smokey Robinson, Kenny Rogers) and Tim Feehan (Chicago, Tiffany), with each contributing two demos. Wiebe’s versatility is again demonstrated on the ’80s pop-rockers “The Day I First Saw You,” co-written with Toto’s Joseph Williams, and “Lorelei.” Feehan’s “Don’t Tell My Heart” finds Wiebe at his most smooth and sensual; again, the Foster influence is evident as the classy, melodic pop track would have fit comfortably on an album from Peter Cetera. (Feehan has been associated with Foster’s since the 1980s, including on tour with Wiebe also among the vocalists.) The set concludes with “Make a Wish,” Feehan’s peppy stab at commemorating Canada’s 125th birthday in song.
The fourteen songs on Original Demos Featuring Warren Wiebe are, of course, a snapshot of a deeply talented and much-missed vocalist, but also a snapshot of the period when melody still reigned in popular music. Any of these selections just might become a new favorite tune. Everything has been superbly packaged by Contante & Sonante. The 12-page full-color booklet includes track-by-track reminiscences from David Foster, Tonio K., Steve Dorff, Tom Snow, Scott Fuller, Guy Thomas, and Tim Feehan plus a note from compilation executive producer Gabriel Raya. Jon Astley has mastered. Though Warren Wiebe has appeared on numerous C&S releases in the past, there can be no doubt now that the secret is, finally, out!
Original Demos Featuring Warren Wiebe is out this Friday from Contante & Sonante at the link below!
Warren Wiebe, Original Demos Featuring Warren Wiebe (Contante & Sonante CSCD-0218, 2018)
- The Colour of My Love – David Foster
- Live Each Day – David Foster
- Never Take That Chance Again – Burt Bacharach & Tonio K
- Love Made Me Wait – Burt Bacharach & Tonio K
- A Little Thing Called Life – Steve Dorff
- The Echo of Your Whisper – Steve Dorff
- You’re Welcome in My Life – Tom Snow
- Spend a Little Time with You – Tom Snow
- 17 Years – Gardner & Fuller
- Nothing That I Wouldn’t Do – Gardner & Fuller
- The Day I First Saw You – Guy Thomas
- Lorelei – Guy Thomas
- Don’t Tell My Heart – Tim Feehan
- Make a Wish – Tim Feehan
Tracks 1-2, 4, 8, 11-14 previously unreleased
Track 3 from Burt Bacharach & Tonio K., Original Demos, Contante & Sonante CSCD-0117, 2017
Tracks 5-6 from Steve Dorff, Original Demos, Contante & Sonante CSCD-0104, 2004
Track 7 from Tom Snow, Original Demos, Contante & Sonante CSCD-0113, 2013
Tracks 9-10 from Gardner & Fuller, Original Demos, Contante & Sonante CSCD-0116, 2016