Now That's What I Call Christmas, Vol. 3
Sony BMG, 2006
REVIEW BY: Michael R. Smith
ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED: 12/25/2007
As the third entry in the Now That’s What I Call Christmas series, this 2-CD set offers more of the typical expected fare that we’ve all heard before during the holiday season. Nat King Cole, Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin, Tony Bennett, Andy Williams, Bing Crosby, Johnny Mathis and Elvis Presley follow each other in quick succession and together they all add up an impressive array of voices from a bygone golden era of music. The folks at Sony wisely set the table by putting these eight dashing and dapper gentlemen front and center on the first CD. And you know something, virtually all that are to follow are just as grand.
Making her first Now Christmas appearance is none other than Judy Garland. Gay men everywhere must be rejoicing over the inclusion of her rendition of “Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas.” She sings the line, “Make the yuletide gay,” with such conviction, after all! Another first-timer is the man in black himself, Johnny Cash, only here we find him singing a honky tonk version of “Blue Christmas.” Now long tall Texans can do their two-steppin’ around the tree and do-si-do under the mistletoe! David Seville’s Chipmunks also make their long-awaited debut with the classic, “Christmas Don’t Be Late.” I’ve been waiting years to add this little chestnut to my collection. Indispensable!
CD 2 continues in the novelty tune vein with Thurl Ravenscroft’s “You’re A Mean One, Mr. Grinch.” At least now we finally know who had that deep scary voice for the music heard in How The Grinch Stole Christmas. It’s not only a great bit of trivia, but also is the perfect song to sing to all the Scrooges and Grinches in your life. Another high point comes courtesy of Al Green. With his silky smooth voice and a substantial arrangement, Reverend Green turns in the most flawless performance of “O Holy Night” I’ve ever heard. I also soaked up every buttery note of “Christmas Time Is Here,” by another legendary voice making a rare Now appearance, Dianne Reeves. When you hear it for the first time, you’ll swear it came off the Charlie Brown Christmas album.
The other women who try to follow in Reeves’ footsteps aren’t as quite successful. Alison Krauss makes Christmas the (gulp) sexiest time of the year with the very suggestive “Shimmy Down The Chimney (Fill Up My Stocking).” Yes, you read that right. Looks like Alison has something more in mind for Santa than cookies this year... Jessica Simpson’s “I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus” is even more cringe-inducing, though that’s not hard to believe considering her recent track record. And still another woman in heat (sense a theme here?), Christina Aguilera starts out over-singing a bit of “Auld Lang Syne,” but for the remainder of “Merry Christmas Baby,” she eventually settles into a comfortable groove. And so does he. Ba-da-bum.
Newer artists close things out, with varying results. The Pussycat Dolls prove that I’m willing to suffer for my art, as they proceed to rip off every artist who ever recorded “Santa Baby.” Zero originality as usual for them. I was also under-whelmed by Ne-Yo’s “Home,” which seems to be welcoming us to the digital age of cheap plastic-sounding muzak. In other words, it’s a good voice going to waste before our very ears. Rihanna, on the other hand, isn’t afraid to change it up. On “It Just Don’t Feel Like Christmas,” she wisely chooses the bells over the whistles and helps to demonstrate that less is indeed more. Also on the plus side, Reliant K’s rockin’ emo version of “12 Days Of Christmas” comes as a nice surprise and is a refreshing change of pace. They perform my all-time favorite Christmas carol at a break-neck pace and somehow keep the train from completely derailing. Consider this the “Bohemian Rhapsody” of Christmas songs.
See kids, chaos can be fun!!!