Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Review: Rod Stewart Christmas TV special

Rod Stewart’s “Merry Christmas, Baby” just debuted on PBS-TV stations across America (check local listings for times in your area).

The latest in THIRTEEN's Great Performances series, it opens with Stewart riding a bicycle up to a hillside mansion. He quickly changes into a suit and starts this elegant hour-long holiday special that revolves around solid new Verve Music Group CD, “Merry Christmas, Baby.”

With conductor (and album producer) David Foster on piano, Stewart performs alongside a small band and string section throughout the program. They do most songs in a main room with an audience but also venture outside where “snow” covers the ground and trees. Stewart does a traditional, intimate take on “White Christmas” in a private room with just Foster and veteran guitarist Dean Parks.

There’s a good vocal chemistry between Stewart and duet partners Mary J. Blige (a dramatic “We Three Kings”), Michael Buble (the breezy, humorous “Winter Wonderland”) and Cee Lo Green (the soulful, Motown-ish title track, complete with female backing vocal trio).

Trumpeter Chris Botti appears on the virtual "duet" with Ella Fitzgerald (a sleek, jazzy “What Are You Doing New Year’s Eve?”). A bagpipe ensemble even brings some of Stewart’s native Scottish heritage to “Auld Lang Syne.”

More lively soul strains come via the horn-driven original finale, “Red-Suited Superman” with guest Trombone Shorty. Longtime Stewart fans and those who came along more recently with the “Great American Songbook Series” should enjoy both the TV special and album alike.

In Southern California, airdates on KOCE include: 8:30 p.m. Nov. 29, 1 a.m. and 8 p.m. Dec. 1, 4:30 p.m. Dec. 2. Other airdates on Ovation are: 3 p.m. Dec. 9, 2 p.m. Dec. 10.     

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