Music Review: Rod Stewart “Merry Christmas Baby”

Merry Christmas Baby CDI admit that my CD collection has an excess of 100 Christmas albums. I am a Christmas music junkie. Despite my considerable musical collection, and the fact that I have been preparing for the Edmonton Singing Christmas Tree since April, I still get excited when new releases come out each year.

This year’s top Christmas pick is Rod Stewart’s “Merry Christmas, Baby”. Stewart’s first-ever Christmas album is my top choice to make spirits bright come December.

Just like he did for the “American Songbook”, the two-time Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductee, adds his raspy, well-seasoned voice to holiday classics like “White Christmas,” “Silent Night,” “Santa Claus Is Coming to Town, “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas”, along with “Auld Lang Sine” . Throughout the album, Stewart, cleverly, takes the traditional melody and turns just a couple of notes around to keep your attention wrapped. In my opinion, the album’s most noteworthy moments are the duets.

On “Winter Wonderland,” Stewart, partnered with Michael Bublé, croon to set the seasonal mood by stirring up images of blanketed, snow-covered streets, snuggling by a cozy fire, hot chocolate in hand. The flamboyant Cee-Lo Green joins Stewart on the title track adding a Motown flavor to the Christmas classic. While, producer, David Foster plays the Rhodes piano, adding to the retro vibe.

“We Three Kings” was a surprise selection to me. Mary J. Blige infuses her soulfully passionate vocals along with a gospel choir, to this dynamic arrangement. “What Are You Doing New Year’s Eve?” features a virtual duet with Stewart and Ella Fitzgerald, showcasing one of my favorites trumpeters, Chris Botti.

Merry Christmas, Baby” includes one original track: “Red-Suited Super Man” composed by Stewart, David and Amy Foster and featuring Trombone Shorty. It is a light-hearted, fun tune worthy to be included among all of these gems.

“Let It Snow! Let It Snow! Let It Snow” is punctuated by the incomparable Dave Koz on sax, giving the composition a little more sass than this seasonal standard usually receives. Stewart offers a touching cover of the Disney favorite “When You Wish Upon a Star” as a perfect fit to a collection of songs conveying the innocence of childlike faith, hope and joy.

If you’re looking to add some joyful sound to your Christmas festivities, or if you have a Christmas music junkie in your circle of friends, this is worth the investment.

Hit Man Returns: Music Review

hitman2When I was in Edmonton this past summer, my dear friend John played me a DVD from the David Foster concert “Hit Man Returns”, the follow-up to the 2008 “Hit Man”. While there is a CD, it is a shortened 11 song selection. What follows is a review of the DVD version of the show.

David was introduced to the crowd by 2 Olympian skaters, Kristi Yamaguchi and Brian Boitano, both of whom have skated and performed to David Foster’s music back when they were actively competing. David nails his “Winter Games” Theme from the Calgary 1988 Games.

Kenny Loggins joins the stage with a couple of songs, "Heart to Heart" and "Forever". He was followed by Gary Wright, one of those artists that I have never seen, but certainly heard. "Dreamweaver" was very tastefully done.

Chaka Khan’s first appearance (one can never get enough Chaka) was her signature "Through the Fire". It was spot-on Chaka, accompanied by the EWF horn section.

Next, "All-4-One" took the stage, more of the stage that is… They are a little bigger now. They nailed two of their chart toppers "I Can Love You Like That" and "I Swear".

Natalie Cole is so elegant. Her voice, sultry while mellow, gives me chills. “When I Fall In Love”, is a wonderful duet with American Idol champion Ruben Studdard.

Jackie Evancho – of “America’s Got Talent”, has the voice of an angel. Her interpretation of “Pie Jesu” is outstanding and her innocence is disarming. She was followed by the "Canadian Tenors".

Michael Bolton and Seal (may I say, that guy can flat out sing!), perform an interesting medley of "When a Man Loves a Woman" and "It’s a Man’s Man’s Man’s World", which segued to Chaka Khan’s "I’m Every Woman".

David Foster described "Earth Wind & Fire" as his favorite band of all time. They open the second act with a horn filled explosion: “In the Stone”, “September” and a little “After The Love Has Gone”. Seriously, these guys sound better than ever. The band is unparalleled in groove and tightness.

For a change of pace, Lara Fabian presented an enthralling version of "Caruso".

A major shift happens, when some Broadway artists presented the tear-jerker “Say You Remember It” from “Betty Boop: The Musical”

A sharp contrast follows when Ne-Yo sings “Miss Independence”. He’s joined by Charice, doing her best impression of Michael Jackson on “Earth Song”, climaxing with the lament of a howling slide guitar, magnificently played by Robert Randolph.

Martina McBride does a whimsical rendition of Chaplin’s classic, “Smile”, followed by a powerful “We’ve Got Tonight”.

Ruben Studdard returns to the stage to sing the almost over-sung “Home”. In my opinion, his take on this Foster tune makes the others pale in comparison.

The vocal highlight of the concert is Charice singing "All By Myself", a performance way beyond her young age. She nailed it, and was rewarded with the longest standing ovation of the night.

What would a David Foster concert be without “The Prayer”?! Laura Fabian is joined by Michael Bolton in a respectable presentation. However, this is not the quintessential version of this now landmark piece.

The incomparable Donna Summer closes out the concert with a quartet of tunes. Seal joins her for a couple, and she ends the show with the appropriately titled "Last Dance".