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All-stars are uneven

All-Star Christmas
All-Star Christmas
By various artists

Epic Records: 2000

This review first appeared in the December 15, 2000 edition of the American Reporter.

So just where do the music stores keep all those Christmas CDs the rest of the year? Half the floor is taken up by them every year once Halloween is past (and it gets earlier every year, with Christmas trees appearing in the malls this year shortly after Labor Day).

And with dozens of new Christmas albums joining the ranks each year, there must be some BIG warehouses holding nothing but Christmas music January through September.

But we digress ...

Epic's new Christmas compilation has lots to recommend it, including Al Green, Gloria Estefan and surprisingly traditional performances by Donna Summer and Cyndi Lauper.

The problem with most Christmas releases is the repetition of the material: Everyone wants to hear the classics, but how many times can you take yet another "White Christmas" before you want to smack someone down the mall escalator?

So credit Estefan, Summer and Lauper for tackling non-retread Christmas songs. They may not have the immediate holiday hook you're used to, but they make up for that by being fresh and new. Other songs with appeal are Keb Mo's acoustic blues "Jingle Bell Jamboree" and the mid-'80s pop hit, "Last Christmas," by Wham!

But starting off "All-Star Christmas" with Celine Dion's overwrought version of Mel Torme's "The Christmas Song" is no way to get listeners into the Christmas spirit. Nor will Donny Osmond's plodding version of "It's the Most Wonderful Time of the Year" make anyone forget Johnny Mathis' timelessly upbeat rendition.

Then again, Al Green's definitive version of "I'll Be Home for Christmas" ought to be in every home.

And Epic is apparently using this collection to prime the future: Teen opera diva Charlotte Church and the even-younger Billy Gilman, who has already scored on the country charts, both are included, although neither's performance is particularly memorable.

This is an okay collection of contemporary artists, but is nothing special – and if do buy it, make sure you learn how to program your CD player so you don't have to listen to "Grandma Got Run Over By a Reindeer."