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John Travolta and Olivia Newton-John Get Back Together for “This Christmas”

December 17, 2012

By John C.

This Christmas CD CoverPretty much everyone who celebrates Christmas knows the feeling of decorating the tree on a Sunday afternoon with your favourite holiday songs playing in the background.  Every year, one of my great joys of the season is discovering new Christmas albums to add to my personal playlist of holiday music.

Last year, it was Zooey Deschanel’s beautiful vocals on the masterful A Very She & Him Christmas and Michael Buble’s excellent Juno Award-winning album titled Christmas.  This year, my choices are even more diverse with CeeLo Green’s magnificent album This Magic Moment which includes a duet with The Muppets on “All I Need is Love,” and Lady Antebellum’s excellent country record On This Winter’s Night both ranking as personal favourites.

But there was also another new Christmas album that attracted attention because it was essentially a reunion of two actors teaming up again for another round of duets.  Released on November 13th with a portion of the proceeds going to charity was This Christmas, a cheerful new collection of old favourites sung by John Travolta and Olivia Newton-John with a variety of special guests.  Their most recent collaboration also attracted an unfortunate number of dislikes on YouTube for their charmingly corny music video for the infectiously catchy original song “I Think You Might Like It,” which just like the album itself feels like two good friends getting back together for the holidays.

The album opens with the classic duet “Baby, It’s Cold Outside” and the two put their own spin on the song, turning around the classic gender roles of the lyrics with John Travolta’s giggling protest to Olivia Newton-John’s requests for him to stay the night.  It immediately sets the tone for the fun that the two were clearly having in the recording studio, which is also evident on “Winter Wonderland” and their commentary throughout “The Christmas Song.”  This is the sort of album where you can have Kenny G play back up saxophone on the playful second track “Rockin’ Around the Christmas Tree” and actually have it fit with the other tracks.  Equally noteworthy is the duet with Barbara Streisand on the third track, a stripped down piano and violin version of “I’ll Be Home For Christmas.”

Tony Bennet and the Count Basie Orchestra also join them for an upbeat cover of “Winter Wonderland,” a jazzy track that precedes the toned back sound of “White Christmas.”  James Taylor supplies backup guitar and vocals to the second-last track “Deck the Halls,” and the album closes with a medley of the traditional New Year’s carol “Auld Lang Syne” as well as the classic Peanuts song “Christmas Time is Here.”  It’s a mash up of two holiday classics that is surprisingly effective in the arrangement and way that the two voices are allowed to play well together, without overshadowing each other.

What’s interesting about the album is that it is essentially a reunion of the two actors from Grease, the classic 1978 musical that starred both John Travolta and Olivia Newton-John in iconic roles.  This album has the same sense of fun that the movie had, with the more emotional tracks like “Silent Night” and the Cliff Richard-aided “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas” being surrounded by infectiously jazzy arrangements like the Chick Corea collaboration “This Christmas.”  The entire album sounds like it could have been a cassette tape from the 1970s that still gets played year after year, and I mean that in the best possible way.

Some might call John Travolta and Olivia Newton-John’s This Christmas cheesy and familiar, and one look at the cover of the album could arguably justify the first analogy.  But I prefer words like comforting and nostalgic, which perfectly describe this cheerful new collection of past holiday favourites.  Add this one to the playlist to listen to while decorating the Christmas tree.

One Comment leave one →
  1. Dottie permalink
    December 24, 2012 2:05 pm

    Good for John & Olivia! Keep up the kind work for the Charities!!


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