This is one of the best if not THE BEST of the many, many Christmas offerings. Mr. Foster is still one of Hollywood's most prolific music men today and twenty years ago his muscle was just as apparent as can be discerned by this gathering of heavyweights. Of the ten guests there isn't a slack among them although there is a flack, Roberta Flack singing a fantastic version of "I'll Be Home For Christmas" with Peabo Bryson. But not before Tom Jones comes out and sings a traditional selection that will remind you of his greatness, what a voice. When you see the opening, a single ballerina against a full orchestra with DF front and center at the piano you gotta know something good is coming. It just rolls like that, Johnny Mathis is next with his standard, "It's the Most Wonderful Time of the Year" sung against a very frenetic background. A very, very beautiful Vanessa Williams steps up to show her many talents with an "old negro spiritual" performed with a ballet dancing accompaniment. Next we lament along with Wynonna as she laments not being available for those whom she is close with a lovely "Blue Christmas". One of my favorites follows, "The First Noel" sung by Peabo and Ms. Flack, whom is by the way, just absolutely beautiful on this formal evening. After a break, Michael Crawford performs a very traditional "O Holy Night" very traditionally, complete with a mob of altarboys. The television evening culminates with the standard group-sing of one of the most standard of all Christmas standards, "White Christmas" with each handpicked guest taking a turn. I think I've mentioned in other reviews something about "celebrity-driven glomfests" but that doesn't always have to be bad as this is evidence. A beautiful production, two thumbs up. Merry Christmas.
David Foster's Christmas Album (1993) (TV)
Cast: Peabo Bryson, Michael Crawford, Celine Dion, Roberta Flack, Tom Jones, Johnny Mathis, Ben Vereen, Vanessa Williams, Bebe & Ce Ce Wyans, Wynonna, David Foster
This CBS Holiday Special starts with Kathie Lee singing "It's the Most Wonderful Time of the Year" as we watch the whole family take a sleigh ride home from the airport. Once there we're treated to some light homey banter as the whole family makes holiday plans and chooses (from what can only be a humangus rolodex) their holiday guests. Even Cody makes it known that he too wants to make some additions to the guest list, a list that will include as Kathie Lee's first choice, Kathy Mattea and as Frank's, Aaron Neville. Collectively they think Andy Williams would be a nice third choice and who disagrees? Andy Williams and Christmas go together like two great things that go great together.
Once the performances begin you see the difference between this and other Christmas specials. If the incidental writing is overlooked what is left is an excellent, reverential heartfelt document to home, family and faith. The songs are not easily recognized since they are of the non-jingley type, they may indeed be very recognizable, just not by me evidently. One downside is the time between performances as the players go through their paces but the songs are evenly spaced throughout the hour long special and they're all excellent. This is one of the lesser known of the KLG Christmas specials, but that doesn't mean it should be overlooked. Merry Christmas.
Kathie Lee: Home For Christmas (1995) (TV )
Cast: Kathie Lee Gifford, Frank Gifford, Kathy Mattea, Aaron Neville, Andy Williams
It starts a little slow (and cheesy) with a signature "Neil" version of "Santa Claus is Coming to Town" that gave me cause for pause. Continuing on to "Little Drummer Boy", Mr. Diamond settles in for a very pleasant, noticably diverse holiday evening of song. Next, "The Christmas Song" and then an unexpected Cat Stevens favorite, "Morning Has Broken", which segues nicely into a very solemn "Silent Night". Overall the performances may lack the energy of Neil's live shows but the compositions and arrangements and the very wide array of supporting acts, choirs and ensembles are excellent. Sometime before the hour is over you WILL see a barbershop quartet, for example. Next was the only song I could not identify (maybe you can) but "White Christmas" needs no introduction, although sadly this is the worst (IMHO) selection of the night. One of everyone's favorites but they cheese it up real good to nobody's benefit. From there another surprise, "Happy Christmas (War is Over)" one of John Lennon's many gifts, this one is sweet. The second half is better than the first and brings the production to a very satisfying finish. "God Rest Ye Merry Men", "Jingle Bell Rock", "Hark! The Herald Angels Sing", "You Make It Feel Like Christmas" (a forgettable ND original), "O Holy Night" and wrapping with a reprise of "Silent Night". Other than the big man there is no other star power. Personally, I think it's great that a guy who's gotta know everybody (we're talking Neil Diamond!) doesn't go out of his way to make this a celebrity driven glomfest. Lots of great faces and voices, big and small. Merry Christmas.
Neil Diamond: The Christmas Special (1993) (TV Special)
Christmas special featuring country music stars of the day celebrating Nashville's holiday traditions in an eclectic blend of Christmas songs performed in a variety of styles including country, blues, folk, pop, bluegrass, rock and gospel. Don't look for the classics, this is full of traditional and original with a definite focus on faith and family. It must be said that it is refreshing to hear a holiday themed show and not be burdened with amateurish arrangements of tired "classics" or insultingly childish retellings of that same tiredness. This is very satisfying as standard fare or holiday listening, it excels both ways.
Opryland's Country Christmas (1996) (TV)
Cast: Clint Black, Wynonna Judd, Patty Loveless, Barbara Mandrell, Lorrie Morgan, LeAnn Rimes, Kenny Rogers, Marty Stuart, Jerry Sullivan, Tammy Sullivan, Hank Williams Jr.
The only thing to not like about this is the one hour runtime. This could easily have been twice as long. Greatly appreciated effort from all the participants but with a little somethin' somethin' via the great Neil Diamond and his background singers, The Soul Children of Chicago.
All these Opryland productions are excellent, with wide ranging entertainment fit for the whole family, from upbeat toe-tappers to heartfelt blues. Good stuff all around and more the sentimental for the Christmas themes and imagery. Imagery such as Banjo Santa, for instance.
Opryland's Country Christmas (1994) (TV)
Cast: Clint Black, Neil Diamond, Vince Gill, Emmylou Harris, Ronna Reeves, Mike Snider, Marty Stuart, Mel Tillis, Pam Tillis, Travis Tritt, Tanya Tucker, Tammy Wynette, Trisha Yearwood, Soul Children of Chicago