Tuesday, March 9, 2021

"Winter Games" by David Foster

Song#:  3427
Date:  02/27/1988
Debut:  89
Peak:  85
Weeks:  3
Genre:  Classical Crossover, Instrumental

Pop Bits:  This busy, hitmaking songwriter/producer occasionally took time to do his own projects, which included a self-titled 1986 album that spawned the #6 AC hit "The Best of Me" (#80 Pop) which was sung by Olivia Newton-John. A year or so later, Foster, who was from Canada, was asked to provide a theme song for the 1988 Winter Olympics that were to be held in Calgary, Alberta, Canada. The song would not only be used during broadcasts, but Foster would also perform it during the opening ceremonies. Foster then came up with the rousing anthem "Winter Games." In addition to the instrumental version, lyrics were also put to the song specifically for the opening ceremonies (held on February 13, 1988) with that portion titled "Can't You Feel It." Foster's theme proved to be popular enough for it to be released as a single. In Canada, the song would do well and reach #21. In the US, the track would get to #28 AC, but it couldn't make any headway on the Pop chart were it had a short three-week stay. The success of the composition then pushed Foster to record a third solo album. Instead of being a pop-oriented effort, Foster decided to write orchestral pieces in the vein of "Winter Games." Titled The Symphony Sessions, Foster would record the album live at the Orpheum Theater in Vancouver with the Vancouver Symphony Orchestra over several dates in late June '88. Foster would also ask a few of his famous musician friends to join including guitarist Lee Ritenour and pianist David Paich. The LP would be released later in the summer and in the US it would reach #111. A TV special would also be filmed and released on video. Foster's work would earn him two Grammy nods, one for Best Instrumental Composition (for "Winter Games") and one for Best Performance Music Video. This would be Foster's last single to reach the US charts. He would go on to record more solo albums and continue to write/produce hits for other artists. These days he seems to be more famous for being the husband of American Idol 5th season runner-up Katharine McPhee.

ReduxReview:  Okay, I admit it. I'm a figure skating fan. I pretty much have been since I saw Dorothy Hamill in the mid-70s, but I really got into it later in the 80s, especially with the Battle of the Brians (Orser vs. Boitano) at the '88 Olympics. Of course Foster's theme was all over the place at the time due to the Olympics and that association led to it being the theme song for professional figure skating shows and tours for many years. In' 89, Boitano had turned pro and competed in the World Professional Championships. His technical program was stunning and set to a piece of music that was just so beautiful. It ended up being a track from Foster's The Symphony Sessions titled "Just Out of Reach." Because of that, I ended up buying the CD. It was actually quite a nice album that also featured "Winter Games." That theme was certainly memorable and perfect for the Olympics. Foster hit the mark when he composed it. However, it didn't really work as a single. It just wasn't geared to be a pop song. It was meant to be an introductory theme like an overture so it lacked the consistent hooks needed to reel in pop radio listeners. Still, it was a wonderful piece of music that continues to get used.

ReduxRating:  6/10

Trivia:  All of the tracks on The Symphony Sessions are instrumentals save for one. The composition "Firedance" featured a small vocal section. For that job, Foster brought in Danny Peck, a singer/songwriter/guitarist that Foster had worked with for years. The pair had crossed paths as early as 1977 when Peck got a solo deal with Arista Records. He recorded a debut album, Heart and Soul, that was produced by Foster. The LP didn't get anywhere and Peck lost his record deal. However, the two seemed to keep in touch and in 1987, Foster, who was writing the music for the film The Secret of My Success, brought Peck in to supply vocals for the song "I Burn for You." It was done as a duet with singer Nancy Shanks. Foster then tapped Peck again for "Firedance." Peck would get another chance at a solo career in 1994 on RCA Records. He would record a self-titled album, but for that effort he worked with another famous producer, Desmond Child. Once again, the album didn't get anywhere. Peck would continue to work on his own recording a couple of indie albums while also working for other artists.


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