Alannah Myles reclaims 'Black Velvet' with modern reworking

Music

The Canadian Press ~ The News
Published on April 19, 2008
Nearly two decades after topping the charts with her smoky smash, Black Velvet, Alannah Myles is back with a new album anchored by a new version of the worldwide hit. Photo by The Canadian Press

It's been nearly two decades since Alannah Myles exploded onto the charts with her sultry hit, "Black Velvet," a global blockbuster that catapulted her to fame while sending her down a long road of legal battles and financial woes.

But through all her well-publicized struggles, it was the emotional toll that's weighed the heaviest, Myles says in a candid interview as she attempts a career comeback anchored by a reworked version of her biggest song.

It's been nearly two decades since Alannah Myles exploded onto the charts with her sultry hit, "Black Velvet," a global blockbuster that catapulted her to fame while sending her down a long road of legal battles and financial woes.

But through all her well-publicized struggles, it was the emotional toll that's weighed the heaviest, Myles says in a candid interview as she attempts a career comeback anchored by a reworked version of her biggest song.

"It was a corrupt industry and I rue the day that I signed that contract with (former record label) Atlantic," says Myles, her trademark dark curls now streaked with grey and pulled back from her face.

"And yet, if it wasn't for Atlantic I wouldn't have a 'Black Velvet' and I wouldn't be known in every country in the world."

Myles (who won't give her age) says it was naivete and inexperience that saw her essentially sign away the rights to her Grammy-winning 1989 self-titled debut.

Terms of the record deal kept her from re-recording her trademark song for 12 years, but once that time expired in 2003, she pounced, Myles says.

"I looked at my clock and said: 'It's 12 years and 15 minutes. Time to re-cut 'Black Velvet'," she chuckles.

Five years later, she's ready to release it again on her first album in eight years, financed entirely by herself and released through indie label Linus Entertainment.

Myles says she did three different versions of "Black Velvet," mindful of tinkering with a Canadian classic revered by fans. She settled on a brighter take than the original.

"I really wanted to do something very contemporary, very sophisticated," she explains between sips of coffee in the living room of her sun-drenched lakeside condo.

"I really wanted to change the original without offending the track. It's such a great song. I wanted to slow it down because the record company sped it up because it was too long and I was really upset about that."

More re-workings of past hits could follow, she added.

"'Lover of Mine' was never a hit in America, I'd like to re-cut that," she says, barefoot and casual in a brightly coloured peasant-style dress and leather blazer.

"I'd love Celine Dion to re-cut it. God, she'd sing the crap out of it."

Earlier this month, Myles says she finally received her first royalty cheque from those early days - $1,900 US. It was the first time she had seen a penny from blockbuster albums that she says earned millions for everyone but her, since she had to pay back millions of dollars in advances doled out to launch her career in the late '80s.

Getting by without those cheques wasn't easy, says Myles, who doesn't own, but rents her condo.

"Somehow or other I just had to be really, really frugal. There were times when I didn't know how I was going to pay the rent," says Myles, whose place is decorated with an eclectic mix of wood furniture, equestrian memorabilia and photos of Myles - many taken at the height of her fame.

"I would take jobs doing recordings that would be released in Japan that no one would ever hear. They were silly but they paid me the money to stay alive."

Weblinks

www.alannahmyles.com