THERE is no telling what images a song title such as Can I Touch You . . . There? will evoke in people's minds, but the odds are it probably provokes some sexual thoughts one way or another. 'The title, by itself, is provocative, but really it's a song about true intimacy, which is also deeper and more meaningful and powerful than literally touching somebody,' says gravel-voiced balladeer Michael Bolton. 'Can I touch your heart the way you're touching mine. 'I think it's important to find new ways to say the same old thing, because the same old thing is being said for a reason - that's why cliches are cliches.' Bolton sings Can I Touch You . . . There? on Greatest Hits 1985-1995, one of five new songs which appear on the singer's latest release. It has been a good decade for 42-year-old Bolton, who achieved success with the single That's What Love Is All About in 1987, although he had been singing for years before that. Since then, to mouth another cliche, there has been no looking back. His seven albums have sold more than 35 million copies worldwide and he has been named best pop male vocalist twice at the Grammy's and favourite male artist three times at the American Music Awards. Despite his success, Bolton confesses to still being somewhat surprised by it. 'Surprised might be an understatement,' he adds. 'Amazed, shocked and extremely blessed are the words that come to mind.' Selecting the songs for Greatest Hits gave Bolton a chance to reflect on his career and while he sees the wisdom of artists having to 're-invent' themselves and change their image, it is something he approaches with care. 'Re-invention really equals growth without being nebulous and irresponsible and without disappointing your fans. It's about expanding your range of musical expression while pleasantly surprising your audience and expanding the boundaries of their expectations,' he says. 'To me, it's important to expand, but you must never lose sight of the people who come from near and far to see you perform and enthusiastically await the release of your next record.' As one of America's foremost romantic balladeers, Bolton's success has been attributed to his audience strongly identifying with the emotions he expresses in his songs. 'The most important thing I can do is try and see how my music impacts, to be constantly in touch with my audience in different ways, to try and understand what is most central to the lives of the people in my audience,' he says. 'It may sound corny, but it is a relationship and, like any relationship, there is a level of communication and commitment that's vital to maintain to make sure that real needs are taken of. 'Ironically, pain gives access. An artist of any kind needs to feel. People who tend to be too cerebral, or who limit themselves to intellectual perception without allowing themselves to feel things deeply, are certain to miss the whole point of their life's experience.' Music is not the only thing in life that Bolton feels strongly about. Softball is another passion. Bolton's own softball team, Bolton Bombers, which comprises band members and friends, has developed a reputation for taking on all comers when they are on tour and have been competing against local radio stations and league teams to raise money for charity. 'We have a great time playing,' he says. 'It's a great escape from the normal day-to-day touring routine. We get to spend more time with a lot of fans, who sometimes take a two-hour lunch break to catch the day games - and sometimes catch hell from their bosses. 'I've had a lot of incredible moments playing with the Boston Bombers, like the fund-raisers with Michael Jordan. I [also] got to realise one of my childhood dreams during the Field of Dreams game where we played against a team of some of the greatest living ballplayers . . . and beat them.' Another reason why Bolton is so enthusiastic about his softball games is that it helps to fuel his charity work. Besides raising funds for causes such as CityKids - dedicated to promoting positive values among young people - plus other child and medical charities, Bolton has also set up the Michael Bolton Foundation to help children and women at risk from poverty and abuse. 'The needs out there are swelling, but the resources to fill them are shrinking,' he says. 'All too often, women and children are powerless against the rampant neglect and abuse in our culture. They need to know there are things they can do about it. I'm extremely proud of the foundation and find a lot of deep and continual gratification in the work we do. I feel especially good about having helped to create a safe space for youth in my home state of Connecticut and am planning very seriously to replicate havens of this sort in other environments where kids are at risk. 'All over the world, people deal with extreme hardships that many of us will never have to experience. I thank God I can give something back, that I'm in a position to do something to help. I believe you can use your success to make a statement with your life. It's a way of showing gratitude and acknowledging what's really important. It's also important to remember where you came from.' Bolton also knows where his music is going: 'I think my direction will definitely lean more towards R&B. I have a very strong gut feeling of where it's time for me to go musically. I found a really comfortable pocket and vocal approach on the new recordings, especially in the verses of Can I Touch You . . . There? I believe I'm going to integrate that into my future and into my live performances. 'I've been in love with R&B and soul music ever since I can remember. Smokey Robinson, the Four Tops and Aretha Franklin. Even today, when you hear music from that era come on, you see people light up.' And, his legions of fans light up too when his songs are played. After all, with 10 good years behind him, Bolton has obviously found many new ways of talking about love.