In theory, Linda Eder's fourth effort for Atlantic, "Gold" (her sixth recording overall), could actually be her debut for the label. For the first time, the artist has created a collection of songs th

In theory, Linda Eder's fourth effort for Atlantic, "Gold" (her sixth recording overall), could actually be her debut for the label. For the first time, the artist has created a collection of songs that not only showcases her vocal skills -- as well as the songwriting talents of her husband, Broadway composer/producer Frank Wildhorn -- but it also contains a spree of radio-friendly cuts.

"Gold," which is due out March 5, is the album that should finally let mainstream pop programmers know what the singer's die-hard fans have for years: that Eder is an immense talent.

So, then why have mainstream consumers previously been so reluctant to embrace her?

"Part of my problem is the way I'm perceived," Eder says, adding that she is viewed by the world at large "as a Broadway diva -- which is odd, since I've only done one Broadway show. This album is different. The three that I've done previous to this for Atlantic were very standards-based. There's not a lot of markets out there for that."

Atlantic VP of product development Peter Galvin agrees, noting that "Gold" is a more contemporary, pop-sounding recording. "Frankly, I was surprised. When I heard what is now the first single, 'Until I Don't Love You Any More,' I immediately said, 'This is a radio hit.' The same went for the rest of the album. It's what we've always wanted for her. But -- for someone who didn't sell more than 35,000 records when she got to Atlantic to someone that sells over 150,000 now -- we've done pretty well [for] having never really counted on radio."

Eder's success is largely attributed to her formidable live following. She's a grass-roots artist, one whose fans feel they own a piece of her because they got to her before radio programmers.

"Linda has an audience that is disenfranchised by radio and so, they get their information by word-of-mouth," says her booking agent, David Hart of the New York-based Agency Group. "If a record makes an impact in one way or another, they pick up on it."

"Gold" combines a variety of pop sounds from the effervescent cover of the George Harrison-penned Beatles tune "Here Comes the Sun" to the poignant Wildhorn and Jack Murphy original, "If I Had My Way," a song written because of the events of Sept. 11, 2001. "Until I Don't Love You Any More" will be shipped to U.S. pop and AC radio outlets this month for airplay consideration, and a dance remix of a yet-to-be-determined song is planned for sometime next month.

Other highlights include the title cut, which was featured in the opening ceremony of the 2002 Olympic Winter Games in Salt Lake City. Eder's style fits nicely on such familiar pop nuggets as "Son of a Preacher Man" and on the Boz Scaggs-penned "We're All Alone."

As for her staying power at Atlantic in a business driven by bottom lines, Eder is realistic. "My albums don't tend to have huge budgets," she says. "They're not small, but it's fairly easy for the label to recoup [its financial investment]."

Galvin agrees, adding that "it may sound unrealistic in this current climate of downsizing and budget cuts, but she's an artist we've always believed in and feel passionately about. There is truth to the rumor that labels still support artists who deserve it."

Eder, who has often been compared to Barbra Streisand, has a style that can be overwhelming at times. While flattering, that has also led to her being pigeon-holed. Yet she remains touched and complimented by the diva comparisons.

"The real me doesn't fit my image," she says. "My voice doesn't fit that. Because Streisand was such a huge influence, people always want to compare. There are less people out there that sing like Streisand, but there are some of us. Celine Dion, Lara Fabian, anyone that sings in a big, belty, yet pretty style -- and sings that type of material -- is instantly attacked for sounding like Streisand. Yet, if you picked any artist, any genre of music, you will find a million people that sound similar. Everybody sounds like somebody else in some way or another, and those people aren't attacked for it, which I find funny. My voice picked someone who is a little more rare-sounding. In a way, it has brought such criticism."

While there are those who may dismiss her as a Streisand wanna-be, "Gold" has the potential to prove that Eder has the pop sensibility for mainstream listeners. She has the pipes for musical theater and the sass for dance music, and she is poised to assume her rightful place in the pop landscape.

"At the end of the day, I relish the idea of reaching as many people as possible with my music," Eder says. "And I'm extremely proud of the fact that I'm making inroads on my own terms with songs that I feel strongly about."

Eder has several U.S. tour dates set in support of the new album. She'll be in Houston Feb. 15-17 at the Jones Hall for Performing Arts. Come March, Eder has dates scheduled in Las Vegas and Phoenix, and in April she'll appear in Dallas, New Haven, Conn., and New Brunswick, N.J., and Beverly, Mass.

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