Travolta and Newton-John ‘This Christmas' (Hip-O)
John Travolta and Olivia Newton-John's reunion album has plenty of good intentions to mitigate the plastic-fantastic smiles in the cover photo and the steaming samovar of seasonal “Grease” contained within. Proceeds go to benefit the Olivia Newton-John Cancer & Wellness Center and the Jett Travolta Foundation, which makes it a lot harder to take the Grinch view on “This Christmas.”
Travolta and Newton-John certainly called in the favors, bringing Barbra Streisand into the mix for “I'll Be Home for Christmas,” Tony Bennett for “Winter Wonderland” and inviting Chick Corea to play piano on the title track's bright lite-jazz arrangement. James Taylor even contributes some lines to “Deck the Halls,” which helps to counteract Travolta's overly mannered vocal performance.
Of course, there is a built-in audience for “This Christmas”: fans who sing along to 1978's “Grease” like it was the “Rocky Horror Picture Show” and offer extremely generous defenses of the duo's second film together, 1983's “Two of a Kind.” All of this is in the service of good causes, but given the sheer volume of superior yuletide music available, it's hard to argue for this cheer. As Travolta says during their version of “Baby It's Cold Outside,” “Oh gosh, Liv, I really have to go.”
— George Lang