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Trying to be nice, all for naught, this season

Dan Thomas

It being the holidays and all, it’s important to remember the goodwill-toward-man thing, even when the man in question is Michael Bolton.

Even though giving me a copy of Bolton’s holiday CD to review is like throwing raw meet into the tiger cage, my editor exhorted me — ad nauseam — to be nice. (As I’m kind of an “Office Space” guy, there’s a palpable temptation to write “Why do I have to change my review? I’m not the one who sucks!”) So, as much as I’d love to use a conference call with Bolton and Patti LaBelle (two of the principals in NBC’s new “Clash of the Choirs” reality show) to just keep the punch lines coming, that would rank alongside shooting fish in a sink on the difficulty scale.

While “A Swingin’ Christmas” isn’t exactly my cup of nog – I’m more of an Elvis “Blue Christmas” guy – I’m sure there are people who would probably like it.

That Bolton gives 10 holiday standards the lite-smooth-jazz treatment is no shock. However, his choice of all Christmas songs was a mild surprise – Bolton grew up in a Jewish household in New Haven, Conn. – as were his flashes of humor.

“I got kicked out of Hebrew school for betting on the dreidel,” Bolton quipped during the call.

“Clash of the Choirs,” in which Bolton will face off against four other musicians and choirs from their hometowns – LaBelle in Philly, Blake Shelton in Oklahoma City, Nick Lachey in Cincinnati and Kelly Rowland in Houston – seems a likely opportunity for more holiday music from Bolton since it runs Dec. 14-17. Both Bolton and LaBelle pledged that gospel wouldn’t be the only music for the choirs, but Bolton seemed to lament that Christmas music would be the only holiday fare.

“I’m just thinking about what we could do with ‘Dreidel Dreidel Dreidel,’ ” he said.

So I listened to “A Swingin’ Christmas” while getting ready for the call. “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas” is probably the best since it’s a little – I don’t want to say schmaltzy – over-the-top anyway. Not only is there nothing to offend the traditionalists, nothing really made me grimace (OK, I did cringe a little during “Silent Night)”.

Well, at least there’s no “O Holy Night.”

And that’s kind of …

… Nice.


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