Olivia Newton-John’s new Christmas album is a delicately beautiful mixture of familiar Christmas tunes (“O Come All Ye Faithful”, “Silent Night”), original songs (“Every Time it Snows”, “Little Star of Bethlehem”) and familiar quick tinkling piano interludes (“Deck the Halls”, “What Child is This?”). Making use of these simple components, Christmas Wish flows pleasantly enough through 22 tracks of soft positive-vibey music guaranteed to please anyone who likes relaxing, slightly familiar music.

The track layout is decidedly clever, extending the album and providing each song with a slick instrumental buffer that only serves to enhance the vocals when they do show up. And the duets are impressive, but nothing less could be expected from the likes of Jon Secada, Jim Brickman and Michael McDonald. Though Secada’s duet, “Every Time it Snows” is something of a melodrama encapsulated in a song, the moving “Instrument of Peace” benefits greatly from the vocal contributions of Marc Jordan. The original “Underneath the Same Sky” is a little bit of a stretch, sounding more like a pop-country song than a Christmas tune.

With Newton-John’s breathy vocals and the gliding music, you can hear this album playing in the background of every perfect suburban kitchen as families gather together for the holidays. It’s not a disappointing album by any stretch of the imagination, perhaps it’s just a little too safe. “Christmas on My Radio,” though enjoyable in its own right, sounds an awful lot like “Beauty School Dropout” from that old stalwart Grease, the musical that originally made Newton-John famous. And maybe that’s the biggest drawback of the album itself: everything just sounds a little bit too familiar. By the time the finale, a duet with Barry Manilow, rolls around, only truly devoted fans will still feel as if Newton-John is presenting something new this Christmas.

Zach’s Rating: B-
Perfect For: A quiet, intimate Christmas gathering
Stay Away If: You didn’t like “My Heart Will Go On” from Titanic 

To pre-order Christmas Wish online (available exclusively at Target on November 6th), visit Brick House Direct
For more information on Olivia Newton-John, visit her homepage

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