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Rod Stewart Merry Christmas, Baby Review

Album. Released 2012.  

BBC Review

Rod’s first festive collection finds the crooner on fine fireside form.

Mike Diver 2012

Rarely are record reviews as pointless as this one. If you know how Rod Stewart sounds, and are aware of these songs’ traditional arrangements (sole new number aside), then you already know what Merry Christmas, Baby has in store. And whether or not you’re going to want to pick it up from one.

But you’re here anyway, so let’s dig deeper.

Stewart’s voice is a crumbling, crackled thing, ideal for fireside serenades, so it’s not surprising to find the former Faces frontman finally turning in a Christmas collection.

He’s lately found a well-fitting niche as a covers singer, too, having released Motown-tribute set Soulbook in 2009, in the middle of his Great American Songbook series. So Merry Christmas, Baby finds the singer safely within his contemporary comfort zone.

But what’s more appropriate for the festive period than a selection that doesn’t stray from the warmth of home? Merry Christmas, Baby ticks every one of the boxes typically accompanying releases of its kind.

Does it pack its tracklist with a variety of seasonal standards? Check. Does it add some much-loved carols into the mix, performed with dignified deference? Indeed. And is there a new song, exclusive to the release, which – if we’re all honest with ourselves – will likely be skipped past on the second Christmas Day listen? You betcha.

Red-Suited Super Man (yep, about Santa) is unlikely to join the pantheon of Christmas greats. But the Trombone Shorty-starring cut is at least swaggering, offering contrast to the more studious readings surrounding it.

Which isn’t to say the straightforward covers lack for quality: Rod’s White Christmas is gorgeous, but then it’s difficult to do too much of a disservice to Irving Berlin’s malleable classic. Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas is stylish and elegant, too.

High-profile guests – Michael Bublé, Mary J Blige, Cee Lo Green – join Rod for a few numbers; but the 67-year-old, officially a crooner these days, never lets them steal the show.

Merry Christmas, Baby is one man’s gift to his fans. And, to a man, his fanbase is surely grateful.

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