Luther Vandross – Classic Christmas Album (review)

Luther Vandross – The Classic Christmas Album (Epic / Legacy) review

It doesn’t get smoother than Luther Vandross.  The Classic Christmas Album  collects all the tracks from his excellent This is Christmas album from 1995, and then adds to it.  What’s truly amazing is that while most artists are content to simply rehash the classics, Vandross penned nine of the 14 tracks himself.

There’s the Marvin Gaye pastiche “A Kiss For Christmas,” the party atmosphere of “Mistletoe Jam,” and the gorgeous ballad “Please Come Home For Christmas” (not the Charles Brown/Eagles classic).  Then there’s the dream pairing of Vandross with legend Darlene Love – their “I Listen to the Bells” has a Phil Spectorish feel, and is a stone-cold classic.

Even when he’s tackling the traditional material, Vandross injects his own personality, as in “The Christmas Song,” taken from A Very Special Christmas 2, where he sings “from kids from one to ninety-two / and me too.”  There’s a heartfelt honesty that keeps even the most shop-worn song from becoming drab.  And, he manages to wrap everything in a light groove that keeps things moving, and yet never borders on schmaltz.

Of the extra tracks, the live duet with Chaka Khan on “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas” is stunning, while a pair of cuts from a long-out-of print 70’s album titled “Funky Christmas” are a nice addition.  It’s great to have these rare tracks, but it’s obvious, Vandross hadn’t quite found his signature style yet.

If you’re looking for a new Christmas album to spice up the holidays with a nice mix of classics and new material, The Classic Christmas Album from Luther Vandross is one to consider.  –Tony Peters