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Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Barry Manilow’s Because It’s Christmas — CD Review

It’s that time of year when most of us are going to reach for a Christmas album at some point. Barry Manilow’s Because It’s Christmas offers something a little different than the usual collection of classics. Yes, I said Barry Manilow.

He opens with a nice, soft version of the classic “The Christmas Song.” Nothing special about it, but that is meant as a compliment. It’s a classic, and more artists looking to cover it ought to leave it alone and just sing the song instead of trying to make it their own. Later on the album Manilow throws in 90 seconds of “White Christmas” that was headed down the same road, but is strangely cut too short.

Along with Exposé, Manilow pulls of a jazzy, toe-tapping version of “Jingle Bells” quite well. He has some fun with it without trying to re-invent the song. His unique “Silent Night / I Guess There Ain’t No Santa Claus” is perfect for those of us that won’t have that romantic Christmas Eve we get so tired of hearing about. It strikes the right chord without hammering home the point. “Just Another New Year’s Eve” gets kudos for the same type of reason.

Manilow completely loses me on “When the Meadow was Bloomin’.” It’s a stretch as a Christmas song, which isn’t necessarily bad given the overdone tunes of the season, but, no pun intended, is just too flowery. The title song, though obviously a holiday song, fits the category of too flowery, or soft, as well. But Manilow fans won’t mind it.

His duet with K.T. Oslin of “Baby, It’s Cold Outside” is the best the album has to offer, and maybe the best version of the song I’ve ever heard. It’s fun, gets away with pushing the edge of corny, and . . . I would imagine . . . isn’t bad for that romantic Christmas Eve those of you having one don’t get so tired of hearing about.

“Bells of Christmas” didn’t do much for me, and his “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas” does a slight about face on his earlier good sense of not messing with a classic. He doesn’t ruin it, but it’s not great.

Overall, if you like Christmas music and can get beyond the “but it’s Barry Manilow” thing, Because It’s Christmas is worth listening to.

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