Superstar Christmas

Various Artists

Epic Records, 1997

REVIEW BY: Christopher Thelen


Here we go again, the reader is probably thinking. This guy has been ripping apart Christmas compilation albums all week, and doesn't even seem to care their proceeds go to charities. Now, he's going to do it again.

Actually, no I'm not. Not in the case of Superstar Christmas, a 1997 release whose benefitting charity was the T.J. Martell Foundation for Leukemia, Cancer and AIDS Research. Of the three collections I've checked out for this holiday season, this is the best of the bunch -- though there are one or two missteps.

My biggest complaint with many of these collections has been that they have the feel of being purely commercial products -- namely, artists seem to throw together Christmas songs just to be part of something that will sell. I don't get that vibe on Superstar Christmas; it actually feels organic for most of the time. That's a rarity in this now-commercial season.

Note that I'm not saying something is "commercial" just because it's popular. Take John Lennon & Yoko Ono's "Happy Xmas (War Is Over)". Now very much a holiday standard, this is a track that I still enjoy hearing, despite the fact that nearly every radio station in America will play this often this season. Simply put, it was a good song back then, and it's still a good song now.my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

The superstars' appearances on Superstar Christmas feel like they actually felt what they were singing. I normally don't like the multi-octave show-off style of Mariah Carey, but it's absolutely appropriate (and perfect) on her rendition of "O Holy Night". Celine Dion turns in a great version of "The Christmas Song" -- and I can't help but think that, once her first child is born, this song is going to take on new meaning to her. And who could find fault with Luther Vandross ("Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas") and Boyz II Men's ("Silent Night") contributions to this project?

I have to give a special shout-out to Cyndi Lauper for her zydeco-tinged cover of "Early Christmas Morning". She turns this song into something fun to listen to, and it's quite possibly the highlight of this disc, next to the Lennon/Ono track.

A few of the selections on Superstar Christmas are aimed towards the older crowd - and whether you'll like these or not is a matter of personal preference. But give the selections from Frank Sinatra ("Let It Snow, Let It Snow, Let It Snow"), Tony Bennett ("Winter Wonderland") and Neil Diamond ("You Make It Feel Like Christmas") a fair shake, even if adult contemporary - or even classical (Placido Domingo singing "White Christmas") -- isn't your cup of tea.

There are a few tracks I'd call mistakes on this one. I'm not saying it's a bad track, but for the second time this season, I find myself listening to an album with "Merry Christmas Baby" from Bruce Springsteen & The E Street Band. I mean, how many albums is this version on, already? Enough is enough, gang.

Anyway, on to the actual "mistakes". I'm gonna catch heat for this one, but it just doesn't feel right having Barbra Streisand singing "The Lord's Prayer" - for that matter, this doesn't really sound like it belongs on a Christmas CD. The only artist who I thought sounded "commercial" was Gloria Estefan ("Christmas Through Your Eyes"), though I'll admit I've never been a fan of hers. And Michael Bolton... no, this is a holiday review, I've gotta watch my language. Bad choice. Bad cover of "Santa Claus Is Coming To Town".

For the most part, Superstar Christmas reminds me of the old-time compilations that you used to be able to get at Hallmark or True Value, featuring some artists you'd love and a few you weren't so thrilled with. Even so, those albums often became cherished treasures during the holiday season -- and I can see this CD joining those ranks.

Rating: B

User Rating: Not Yet Rated



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