When it comes to Christmas music, the standards are hard to beat. While there are newer originals that are incredible like “Secret of Giving” by Reba (1999), there are also some really bad new songs each Christmas season. This Christmas, the Trans-Siberian Orchestra, Colbie Caillat, and Cee Lo Green all have new albums.
And, while I’ve already bought three new Christmas CDs this year, there are two more that I want to pick up.
Blake Shelton’s “Cheers, it’s Christmas” is one of them and to be honest, while I like his voice, I really want it because he does a duet with Reba on “Oklahoma Christmas”.
Also, I’m not an “American Idol” fan even with the amazing Kelly Clarkson and Carrie Underwood. However, I finally broke down this past summer and bought my first “AI” alumni CD, “Trespassing” by Adam Lambert. It was great, but it totally bombed!
With that being said, I was very apprehensive about the new holiday disc from last year’s winner Scotty McCreery.
Yes, he’s cute and he has that great, masculine Josh Turner-like voice, but did I really want to take a chance on “Christmas With Scotty McCreery”. I finally decided yes, so I’ll going to buy it.
So, what about the three new Christmas CDs that I bought? Two are fantastic, but one of them has a drawback. The third is acceptable and I would only recommend it for one reason. It would be closer to a “lump of coal”.
“MERRY CHRISTMAS, BABY” — ROD STEWART
Ladies and gay men, you may have swooned in the 1970s when he sang “Da Ya Think I’m Sexy” and “Young Turks” in the 1980s, but does that gravelly voice translate into holiday cheer?
“Merry Christmas, Baby” is Rod Stewart’s first holiday disc and I can’t believe that we made it through all of the past holidays without him. This disc is definitely going to be a holiday classic.
Stewart excels in the classics, “Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas”, “Santa Claus Is Coming To Town”, “White Christmas”, “Let It Snow! Let It Snow! Let It Snow!” and “Blue Christmas”.
Several duets are featured and my favorite is “Winter Wonderland” with Michael Buble. He also has nice duets with Cee Lo Green on “Merry Christmas, Baby” and “We Three Kings” with Mary J. Blige.
Rod does a great duet with the late Ella Fitzgerald on “What Are You Doing New Year’s Eve?” God rest her soul, but I have to say that I’m not a fan of singers recording new songs with people who have passed on. (If this trend continues, I hope Madonna releases a Christmas CD next year and does “Happy Xmas (War is Over)” with the late John Lennon.)
There is one original song on the disc, “Red-Suited Super Man”, and it’s a fun song.
“Merry Christmas, Baby” has been played many times since I bought it. I love this disc.
“ON THIS WINTER’S NIGHT” — LADY ANTEBELLUM
I absolutely love the harmonies of country music’s hottest trio, Lady Antebellum. I saw them open for Reba a few years ago and I love their energy and their voices.
You can’t go wrong on their new Christmas album, “On This Winter’s Night”.
Every song on the disc is pure Christmas joy from the upbeat fun of Hillary Scott’s “Holly Jolly Christmas” to Charles Kelley getting down on a fun “Blue Christmas”. Other perfect standouts are “Christmas (Baby Please Come Home)”, “All I Want For Christmas Is You”, “The First Noel”, “Let It Snow! Let It Snow! Let It Snow!”, “Silent Night (Lord of My Life)”, and “Silver Bells”.
My only gripe, and this is a big one that long time fans may agree with me on, is that this disc feels like a ripoff to make some quick money on their popularity.
Of the twelve songs, six of them were released on the trio’s 201o EP, “A Merry Little Christmas”. So, if you’re a fan and you bought that one two years ago, you’re paying for the same six songs this year with only six new songs! (Santa may place the record company on his “naughty list” for marketing the recycled songs!)
Putting that behind me, if you made confectionery concoctions as tasty as any song on this disc, you’d definitely be in demand year around for your baking!
“This Christmas” — JOHN TRAVOLTA & OLIVIA NEWTON-JOHN
John Travolta & Olivia Newton-John set the world on fire with the 1978 blockbuster, “Grease”. Their hit song, “You’re The One That I Want”, is one of the best-selling duets of all-time. However, while lightning does strike twice, that doesn’t always happen in the entertainment business. Their follow-up movie together, 1983’s “Two of A Kind”, was a box office bomb, but Olivia did score a top 5 hit, “Twist of Fate”, from the movie soundtrack.
After Travolta got a text from Olivia last year about how successful their “Grease” duet still is, they decided to do a Christmas CD together to benefit her charity, “The Olivia Newton-John Cancer and Wellness Centre” in Melbourne, Australia and his charity, “The Jett Travolta Foundation”, in memory of his 16-year-old autistic son, Jett, that died in early 2009 in the Bahamas after he fell and hit his head.
I’ll get the bad news out of the way first and then focus on the good. The opening song, “Baby, It’s Cold Outside”, is probably the worst version I’ve ever heard. As much as I love Olivia, she couldn’t get “Physical” enough to save this disaster! Three songs later, “This Christmas” would have been better without John’s vocals.
Enough picking on John. I like the man and I love his acting. He does a fine job singing solo on “This Christmas Waltz”.
He and Olivia are joined by Barbra Streisand on “I’ll Be Home For Christmas” and it’s excellent. Four songs later, Cliff Richard joins them on “Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas” (you may remember Cliff from Olivia’s 198o’s hit, “Suddenly” from “Xanadu”). Tony Bennett and The Count Basie Orchestra show up on “Winter Wonderland” and James Taylor drops in on “Deck The Halls”.
Olivia’s solo, “Silent Night” is incredible and their medley “Auld Lang Syne/Christmas Time Is Here” is a great closer to an uneven album.
The most exciting song on “This Christmas” is the one that I think should have been sequenced as the first song on the album, “I Think You Might Like It”. It’s a very fun song and if I close my eyes while listening to it, I see Danny & Sandy in “Grease” dancing to it around the Christmas tree. Here is the new video from Olivia & John!
GRADE: C+ (There are great songs on it and there are some not so great songs, but the album is for a good cause. It’s Christmas and the holidays are about charity!)
And, while we’re talking about amazing Christmas albums, these three are still my favorites.
Happy listening and Merry Christmas early!