Christmas Is Now Drawing Near At Hand - Steve Winwood
O Holy Night - Tracy Chapman
We Three Kings - Patti Smith
Part three of a series of records that benefits the Special Olympics, A Very Special Christmas 3 from 1997 is as excitingly eclectic as its predecessors. Though it features the likes of R&B chart toppers and hip-hoppers Ma... more »se, Puff Daddy, and Snoop Doggy Dogg and alt-rockers No Doubt, Smashing Pumpkins, , Blues Traveler, and others, the real standout performances belong to Jonny Lang, with his bawdy, barroom version of "Santa Claus Is Back in Town" and Sting, who delivers a proper reading of that old English carol "I Saw Three Ships." The showstopper, though, is Natalie Merchant's "Children, Go Where I Send Thee" in an arrangement so rich and compelling it may top even the many five-star versions of this African-American hymn that have come before it. --Martin Keller« less
Part three of a series of records that benefits the Special Olympics, A Very Special Christmas 3 from 1997 is as excitingly eclectic as its predecessors. Though it features the likes of R&B chart toppers and hip-hoppers Mase, Puff Daddy, and Snoop Doggy Dogg and alt-rockers No Doubt, Smashing Pumpkins, , Blues Traveler, and others, the real standout performances belong to Jonny Lang, with his bawdy, barroom version of "Santa Claus Is Back in Town" and Sting, who delivers a proper reading of that old English carol "I Saw Three Ships." The showstopper, though, is Natalie Merchant's "Children, Go Where I Send Thee" in an arrangement so rich and compelling it may top even the many five-star versions of this African-American hymn that have come before it. --Martin Keller
James A. from WOODSTOCK, GA Reviewed on 9/16/2006...
Smashing Pumpkins' Christmastime is great!
The Best of the "Very Special Christmas" Series
Sam Bethune | Lincoln, Nebraska USA | 12/24/1999
(4 out of 5 stars)
"I own all the volumes of "A Very Special Christmas" and consider this one to be the best. Maybe I'm sort of a Grinch, but I detest Whitney Houston's version of "Do You Hear What I Hear?" and Stevie Nicks' interpretation of "Silent Night" which appear on previous editions. To be sure, some of the songs are better than others. I for one liked "Christmastime" by the Smashing Pumpkins...it's refreshing to see one of this country's best alternative bands try something a little out of the ordinary. My hands down favorite on this disc is "Christmas" by Blues Traveler. The lyrics are especially interesting and portray John Popper's initial indifference to Christmas, followed by his getting caught up in the Christmas Spirit, followed by his anxiously awaiting next year's Christmas. It's a truly beautiful and well done piece.Also worthy of mention is "Ave Maria" by Chris Cornell and Eleven. Cornell's vocals, as well as a very good arrangement of this classic, make it a standout on this collection and alone justifies the purchase price.The other tracks range from beautiful simplicity (Enya's "Silent Night") to raucous and fun (No Doubt's "Oi to the World). As previously mentioned, this is the best of the "Very Special Christmas" series. Give it a listen."
A Very Worthy Addition to your Christmas Collection
Ken Cook | Chelmsford, MA USA | 11/27/2003
(5 out of 5 stars)
"The third album in this series is mostly a winner and well worth adding to your Christmas collection (as well as the first two volumes). As with any compilation that attempts to cover multiple genres, it is bound to be a hit or miss affair for most, but I think the producers of this series have done a pretty good job of it so far. Like the first volume, this record has very few clunkers and is overall worthy of five stars (I gave Volume 2 only four stars on account of it having a higher number of unworthy tracks).The collection leads off with Sting's short and sweet rendering of the traditional "I Saw Three Ships." Does such a good job with it that you wish the tune went on longer. One of these days, Sting will produce his own Christmas album. Next up is the now defunct alternative band Smashing Pumpkins with their original composition "Christmastime" which you most likely have heard on the radio a number of times. This is one of the top songs on this album. But the best song on this record could very well be Natalie Merchant's "Children Go Where I Send Thee" which is an old gospel song. So the first three songs are already worth the price of this CD alone.Unfortunately, the mood is spoiled by the next track featuring a whole mess of rap artists doing an ugly version of "Santa Baby." I don't know why the producers of this series feel compelled to stick a rap track on every volume but I don't appreciate it. Next is No Doubt doing "Oi To The World" which is a very annoying song that grates on your nerves after repeated listens. This song would no doubt (pardon the pun) drive Noriega out of his compound. Then we have Sheryl Crow doing a version of the overrecorded "Blue Christmas" that doesn't do anything for me but at least it gets the album sounding like a Christmas record again.Now we have Blues Traveler doing an original John Popper composition ("Christmas") that is one of the top tracks on this album and this also gets a lot of radio airplay around the holidays. Following that is Enya's Gaillic version of "Silent Night" ("Oiche Chiun"). This is just superb and very hypnotizing. I like playing this late at night on Christmas Eve by the fireplace once the gifts are under the blinking lights of the tree and the champagne is uncorked. If you are not familiar with the music of Enya, I highly recommend getting some of her albums. Then we have Hootie & The Blowfish (who were one of the hottest bands in music when this collection came out in 1997) doing a version of "The Christmas Song." While the performance is okay, I do not like this song at all as it is recorded by so many other artists and it's getting sort of old. Whatever happened to Hootie & The Blowfish anyway? They sort of disappeared after this.Next is my personal favorite song on this CD, Chris Cornell (of the alternative rock band Soundgarden) doing a spine-tingling version of "Ave Maria." This is another song I like to hear late at night on Christmas Eve. It sets quite an atmosphere. Next is "Christmas In The City" by Mary J. Blige. This soulful track doesn't sound very Christmasy at all and it sort of spoils the mood that was created by Chris Cornell's song. After that is Jonny Lang's version of "Santa Claus Is Back In Town" which is a bluesy rocker which is quite good but it just doesn't flow right here. The producers of this album don't do a very good job ordering the songs. They are all over the place.Next track is probably the one that gets the most radio airplay, that would be the Dave Matthews Band doing a live version of "Christmas Song" which was written by Dave Matthews himself. This is definitely a highlight of this CD. Next is Steve Winwood doing a version of an obscure ancient song called "Christmas Is Now Drawing Near At Hand." I like it but you need to give it a few spins before it starts growing on you. Tracy Chapman then follows with her version of "O Holy Night." This is a very atypical and sparse interpretation of this song and quite interesting to listen to. Like the Steve Winwood track, you have to give it time to grow on you.Finally, the set concludes with Patti Smith doing an eclectic version of "We Three Kings." I've seen some negative comments about this song on other reviews but I like it a lot and consider it one of this album's highpoints.There are enough great songs on this record to make this an essential part of your Christmas collection."
Third time's a charm.
H3@+h | VT | 10/10/2005
(4 out of 5 stars)
"I found many songs I like on the other "Very Special Christmas" albums, but front to back this is easily my favorite. Maybe because it includes alot of "adult-alternative" artists, but probably just because the songs are sooo good. Just look at the tracklist. Sting, Natalie Merchant, and Sheryl Crow all do great covers, and I also love the songs done by Tracy Chapman and Enya. As far as originals go, I was really impressed by the tracks from Smashing Pumpkins and Blues Traveler, both are excellent, and both sound very seasonal. My reason for purchase however was for "Ave Maria". Chris Cornell (Soundgarden/Audioslave) does an amazing job with it, and it's really quite moving. The rest is good at the least. As the holidays approach, I already can't wait to play this. I also suggest "The Edge Of Christmas" and "You Sleigh Me: Alternative Christmas Hits"."
The best of the bunch, perfectly balanced
Brent A. Anthonisen | Alpharetta, GA, USA | 12/22/2004
(5 out of 5 stars)
"The third edition of the "A Very Special Christmas" series is for me the most significant. It's definitely very '90's just as the first version was very '80's, but that shouldn't be interpreted as a negative criticism. True, the first instinct of any contemporary rock/pop music fan is likely going to be "Blues Traveller/Hootie & The Blowfish/Tracy Champman? Who listens to those people anymore?" ...but recording original (or even standard) Christmas songs isn't about being current or cutting edge; it's about "making a joyful noise" and, in this case, raising some money for a particularly good cause.
The highlights are, in order, Sting's "I Saw Three Ships", which can't help but get anyone into a jovial mood (my daughter, age 7, particularly loves it...for her it's the title track for the whole CD), Natalie Merchant's "Children Go Where I Send Thee", brilliantly executed yet a bit tedious to listen to as it is a variation on the "Twelve Days Of Christmas" theme (repititious, repititious, repititious...you get the idea), No Doubt's hyperska cover of "Oi! To The World" (although this did take some time to grow on me...once I was able to deduce Gwen's lyrics -no easy task, they come fast and furious- I was able to enjoy the lighter side of the song), Sheryl Crow's breathy reinterpretation of "Blue Christmas" was particularly sultry...reminds me of Marilyn singing "Happy Birthday" to JFK, Blues Traveler's "Christmas" has to appeal to the inner cynic in everyone (it spoke specifically to me before my daughter was born), and Hootie & the Blowfish, whom I never particularly cared for durng their Huey-Lewis-&-The-News-esque run in the mid-'90's, have in fact done a version of "Christmas Song" sufficient to add extra warmth to any home and hearth. Chris Cornell's absolutely EPIC rendition of "Ave Maria" comes from out of nowhere and was an instant favorite, still is my favorite track off this album, Jonny Lang's version of "Santa Claus Is Back In Town" could never rival Elvis Presley's version (perhaps an unfair standard by which to compare anyone), but for someone hearingthe song for the first time, they are treated to a real potboiler. This guy can sing his @$$ off and can play a bit of guitar as well. And he was SIXTEEN when this was recorded? Not too bad at all, sunny Jim. "Christmas Is Now Drawing Near At Hand" is terrific in the hands of Steve Winwood (an odd choice for this compilation; we wasn't exactly riding the crest of his popularity by this time) ...it is a fitting "for shame, ye sinners" approach that he delivers asthough from the pulpit itself. And Tracy Chapman has never sounded better than in her version of "O Holy Night". It's never been my favorite Christmas Carol, but after listening to her sing it it plays in my head for hours afterward. Quite possibly the best song on the entire CD.
Now...the other songs I don't find fault with...I can listen to them without feeling the need to skip through them. "Christmas Time" is a lovely original, well-written and arranged, but I've never enjoyed listen to Billy Corgan sing; he may well be alt-rock's version of Bob Dylan in that he can write a song as well as anyone, but listening to that midwestern whingy twang is a discipline unto itself. The Reverend Run All-Stars and friends have seemed to meld "Santa Baby and "Christmas In Hollis" from the first "A Very Special Christmas" album from 1987 and have made both songs poorer in this effort. Still the more I listen to it, the better it gets. "Christmas In The City" by Mary J. Blige is nicely done, it conveys the vibe it seeks well enough and I definitely appreciate its jazzier aspects; it should be the soundtrack to any Christmas special directed by Martin Scorsese. Patti Smith and Enya's respective renditions of "We Three Kings" and "Silent Night" are interesting, but more atmospheric in nature and seem more new age than pop-influenced, and closing the CD with the gothic gloom that Smith gives her song is at best a questionable call.
I still find this to be the most consistent edition of the series, and as such it is the only one I own, even though generationally speaking the original album probably hits closer to home for me. Well-recommended mix of contemporary and classic songs given a current treatment that lasts long beyong the post-grunge/alternative music era from whence it came. Merry Christmas!"
nimsmolly | Sumner, WA United States | 12/13/2000
(5 out of 5 stars)
"This is such a wonderful Christmas album and I must agree with the editorial review. Sting's rendition of I SAW THREE SHIPS and Natalie Merchant singing CHILDREN GO WHERE I SEND THEE are the highlights. Johnny Lang, Smashing Pumkins and Rev Run and the AllStars (I don't even know who they are) are just excellent as well. I would reccomend this to anyone."