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NEETI SARKAR
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Rod Stewart- Merry Christmas, Baby!

Universal Music, Audio CD: Rs. 295

For someone whose distinctive raspy crooning is still raved about, it’s funny how British singer-songwriter, Rod Stewart, never attempted a holiday album before this. But like they say, it’s better late than never. While the artiste became popular in the late 1960s and early 1970s with The Jeff Beck Group and then with Faces, he has always been the kind of singer who has let his singing do the talking. Merry Christmas, Baby , is no exception.

The album is off to a cheery start with ‘Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas’ on which Rod Stewart tries to bring in his age-old style and élan to his vocals.

On ‘Winter Wonderland’, we see Stewart collaborate with Michael Bublé, who himself has come out with a fantastic Christmas album of his own. Unfortunately, this isn’t among the strongest tracks on this record. On the title track, Cee Lo Green joins Stewart to bring a steadily inclining poignancy, musically, to ‘Merry Christmas, Baby’. Then comes the very enjoyable and mellifluous ‘Let it Snow, Let it Snow, Let it Snow’. Rod Stewart’s trademark raspy vocals gleam on this track.

Any Christmas album would have the regulars but what’s special about this one is that it comes with a few surprises wrapped in shiny red and green almost! One of them is Rod’s virtual duet with the Queen of Jazz, Ella Fitzgerald, despite the fact that she died in 1996.

The other surprise comes in the form of ‘Red-Suited Super Man’, featuring the uber talented Trombone Shorty. This number is fun, undulating with horns blasting, making it a solid rocker. Next up is ‘When you Wish Upon a Star’ which isn’t too great an offering and it also is somewhat inappropriate in this arrangement of music.

While you would expect ‘We Three Kings’ to be traditional, slow and somewhat dreary, this particular rendition by Stewart in collaboration with Mary J. Blige comes as a brilliant surprise. While it’s not really far removed from the original, it is unique. It’s racier, more melodic and definitely very pleasurable.

‘Silent Night’ is beautiful, tranquil, dreamy, just the way it’s meant to be. And the choral effect provided by a children’s ensemble only gives it its finesse. The popular ‘Auld Lang Syne’ brings this album to a bold finish. An anthem so to speak, while the track doesn’t steer completely away from the original, the folk treatment given to the intro is stellar. Though the bridges and key changes heighten the song’s sheen, it is in fact Rod Stewart’s crooning that makes this track a clear winner!

Other songs on this album are secular holiday tracks such as ‘Santa Claus is coming to Town’, ‘White Christmas’ and ‘Blue Christmas’Though the 67-year-old crooner has tied up with some of the greatest modern day artistes on this album, it’s amazing how he never lets them steal his show. David Foster has done a neat job with the production and the arrangement.

NEETI SARKAR

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