It’s Christmas time again and every year more and more artists come out with Christmas albums. Last year saw Boyz II Men and Gloria Estefan bringing holiday tunes and this year Mariah Carey has joined the clique. There’s a problem, though, with entire Christmas albums recorded by only one performer, the songs tend to sound the same.
The “Very Special Christmas” albums, on the other hand, are two eclectic collections of a wide range of musicians recording new songs and renditions of old classics. Founded by Eunice Kennedy Shriver, the chairman of Special Olympics International, the “Very Special Christmas” albums were first released in 1987 and again in 1992 to raise support for the Special Olympics.
The songs on the first album range from the Eurythmics’ light and harmless cover of “Winter Wonderland” to the Pointer Sisters’ lively “Santa Claus is Coming to Town” and Bryan Adams’ “Run, Rudolph, Run.” However, the best moments are sliced and served by Whitney Houston and Sting.
Whitney’s passionate rendition of “Do You Hear What I Hear” truly captures her soul. Sting’s stunningly sincere and powerful “Gabriel’s Message” is a beautiful addition to the collection. Madonna’s baby voice on “Santa Baby” and Bon Jovi’s hard rock “Back Door Santa” don’t seem to fit quite well, though.
The second album also succeeds at bringing a broad range of talent together. It scores points by including Aretha Franklin’s soul on a slower and more elegant version of “O Christmas Tree,” as well as bringing blues with “Merry Christmas Baby” by Bonnie Raitt and Charles Brown and jazz with Vanessa Williams’ classy “What Child is This?” Boyz II Men’s a cappella version of “The Birth of Christ” rises high above their Christmas album. Extreme’s “Christmas Time Again” is an original masterpiece. It’s one of those songs that you know is destined to be remade in the future and ends with a nice touch of “The First Noel” for good measure.
Both albums contain a nice variety of musical styles that will surely keep the holidays interesting. .
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