TORONTO - So much for retirement.

Canadian songstress Anne Murray had pretty much convinced herself she wouldn't put out another album or embark on another cross-Canada tour after releasing her intended swan song disc, "I'll be Seeing You," in 2004.

But now the 62-year-old finds herself on a jam-packed media blitz, promoting an album of 17 duets with some of the biggest names in the music industry and revealing a shrewd marketing acumen that has her praising the likes of such incongruous colleagues as Madonna and Rufus Wainwright.

Nevertheless, Murray frankly admits she "had to be dragged kicking and screaming into this project."

"The last two albums, actually, I've been dragged kicking and screaming," Murray says.

"I thought that the last one that I did was my last, but the record company convinced me that this duets album would be the thing to do and they were right. I'm glad I did it."

The new disc, "Friends and Legends," melds Murray's honeyed vocals with those of music's biggest female performers, including Celine Dion, Nelly Furtado, k.d. lang, Shelby Lynne and Shania Twain.

It's helmed by renowned record producer Phil Ramone, who's diverse body of work includes recordings with Ray Charles, Bob Dylan, Paul McCartney, Paul Simon and Burt Bacharach.

The eclectic pairings tackle Murray's best-known songs and other pop favourites, such as "You Needed Me" (Twain), "When I Fall In Love" (Dion), "Snowbird" (Sarah Brightman), and "Daydream Believer" (Furtado).

It's a May-December formula that's worked well for other artists in the autumn of their careers, and Murray makes no pretence of knowing where she stands with today's youth-obsessed market.

"At my stage in my career, there's no point in putting out an album with new songs on it because people would just ignore it," Murray says simply.

"It's hard to sell albums in this day and age and I think you have to come up with something new and different every time you're out of the box. And how you do it, I don't know, but the last few records that I've done have been specialty records - one being (the 1999 collection of devotionals) 'What A Wonderful World.'... That album did great. I mean, I was in shock."

After four decades in the business, Murray says she's bewildered by a rapidly changing landscape that can either snuff out or vault careers overnight.

The former gym teacher from Springhill, N.S., says she's learned to sometimes surrender to such unexpected marketing choices as hawking CDs on cable TV.

"There was a time when I never would have considered, ever, doing television commercials for records. I would never do that. That was something that you did for K-Mart," says Murray, whose TV pitch for "What A Wonderful World" helped push sales to more than two million copies worldwide.

"Well now, without television and things like that, I wouldn't have a career. Because that is the way to get to people. People who buy my records don't go into music stores - music stores which are fading before our very eyes."

Murray has built a career on a laid-back country style that's often at odds with the fads of the day, so perhaps it's not surprising when she spontaneously expresses admiration for iconoclasts such as Wainwright and Madonna for carving out a patch in the spotlight.

"She doesn't sing like Barbara Streisand...(but) she dances like a son of a gun," Murray says of the Material Girl.

Canada's other favourite songbird gets good marks, too, for playing the fame game well.

"Nelly Furtado has the right idea in reinventing herself," Murray says of the "Promiscuous Girl"'s sexy comeback last year.

"At first, people were very resistant but you know what? Good for her. Whatever it takes. You want to be in the business? You want to do well? So you do whatever it takes to get people's attention. That's what she's doing. People are paying attention, too."

For her part, Murray says she is throwing herself with gusto into a fresh go-round with the charts, displaying an ambitious drive that betrays her casual delivery and reserved public image.

"Right now, I've got my eye on the ball," says Murray, a golf nut recently named "Golf For Women" magazine's top female celebrity player.

"I've got this album of duets, I'm gonna promote the hell out of it, I'm gonna tour, I'm gonna do all the things that I'm supposed to do when I release an album and then I'll see what happens."

"Friends and Legends" comes out Tuesday, with a cross-Canada tour planned for the spring.