Various – A Very Special Christmas
This is the first time I can remember any xMas album taking over the public consciousness and spawning multiple radio singles by then-current artists. It was a huge success, eventually selling over two-and-a-half million copies and, in the process, raising millions for Special Olympics. Almost all of these songs were recorded just for this album, too, with everyone donating their time, with labels and management waiving their fees, thereby ensuring that 100% of profits went to charity.
The Pointer Sisters kick things off with a great version of “Santa Claus Is Coming To Town.” The only version I can think of that I like better is Bruce Springsteen’s. Annie Lennox could sing the dictionary and I’d buy a copy, so the Eurythmics’ “Winter Wonderland” just can’t miss. Whitney Houston’s voice turns “Do You Hear What I Hear?” into a hymn-like triumph. And I finally get my song by the Boss with the definitive version of “Merry Christmas Baby.” Clarence’s sax puts this song over the top, in the running for my all-time favorite. (I’ve got a bunch of favorites. Sue me.)
Christie Hynde and the Pretenders wish for you to “Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas” and John Mellencamp saw Mommy kissing Santa Claus. I still prefer Mellencamp’s heartland rocker to the Jackson 5 version. This is followed up by the slightly-out-of-place “Gabriel’s Message” – Sting has multi-tracked his vocals so it sounds like several cantors in a cathedral, but he is backed by an odd, pulsating electronic rhythm. Thankfully we get back on track with the best xMas rap tune ever recorded, Run-D.M.C.’s “Christmas In Hollis,” driven by a sample of Clarence Carter’s sax from “Back Door Santa.”
Another song from this compilation in the running for my favorite xMas song is U2’s “Christmas (Baby Please Come Home).” Bono’s vocals are so earnest on this tune that it hurts. Madonna shows up to lighten the mood with “Santa Baby,” by way of Betty Boop. Bob Seger forces us to listen through another rendition of “The Little Drummer Boy” before Bryan Adams kicks things up a notch with “Run Rudolph Run.”
My CD is not an original, so I get Bon Jovi’s “I Wish Every Day Could Be Like Christmas,” instead of his version of “Back Door Santa.” It’s not bad. Alison Moyet favors us with “The Coventry Carol” – it’s not a song I know from anywhere else and I don’t care for it. And Stevie Nicks closes the evening’s festivities with a very traditional take on “Silent Night.”
This is one of the best xMas albums to come out during my lifetime, even if I don’t love every song on it. It’s one of the few that I actually look forward to every year, even if it’s really only to hear Madonna, Run-D.M.C., U2, and Bruce Springsteen. If you haven’t listened to it in awhile I strongly recommend digging out your copy (you know you have one buried somewhere) and giving it another spin. It’s the gift that keeps on giving.
Thank you all so much for reading! This concludes the 12 Days Of xMas Music because I’m guessing most people have better things to do on Christmas Eve than read my self-indulgent nonsense. I’ve had a lot of fun revisiting and reviewing all of these albums. I hope you’ve enjoyed reading about them and maybe even found a couple holiday CDs to add to your own collection.
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Until next time, keep those discs spinning. Have a Merry Christmas, a Happy New Year, and all-around Happy Holidays!