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POP EYE

Roll Over, Phil Spector, Tell Santa The News

September 13, 1987|STEVE POND

"The Phil Spector Christmas Album," the producer's 1963 collection featuring such artists as Darlene Love, the Ronettes, the Crystals and Bob B. Soxx & the Blue Jeans, has long been rock 'n' roll's yuletide monument.

Now, 24 years later, record producer Jimmy Iovine is preparing an album that aims to give Spector a run for his money, at least when it comes to star power. Among the participants: U2, Madonna, Bruce Springsteen and Whitney Houston.

Proceeds from the project, which will be officially announced next month, will go to the Special Olympics. That charity connection helped Iovine convince half a dozen record labels to loan out their biggest artists (though one major label reportedly balked until the last minute).

"A Very Special Christmas" will be released this fall on Special Olympics Records (distributed by A&M). For the LP, Iovine recruited most of the artists with whom he's worked over the last few years, as well as several with whom he's never worked, and asked each to record his/her favorite Christmas song.

Tracks include Springsteen doing "Merry Christmas, Baby"--which sounds like one of the LP's least intriguing tunes, since he released a live version of that Charles Brown chestnut on the flip side of a single last year.

There's also Bob Seger's version of "The Little Drummer Boy," the Pretenders' rendition of "Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas," Stevie Nicks' reading of "Silent Night," Bon Jovi's run-through of the salacious "Back Door Santa," Whitney Houston's version of "Do You Hear What I Hear?" and the only new Christmas song on the record, Run-D.M.C.'s "Christmas in Hollis" (the title refers to the area of Queens that the rappers call home.)

Bryan Adams, Sting, John Mellencamp, Eurythmics, the Pointer Sisters and Alison Moyet are also included on the 15-song package.

But two tracks sound especially promising: U2's Bono Hewson gets a chance to try out his best stadium-rock histrionics when he tackles "Christmas (Baby Please Come Home)," the Spector-Ellie Greenwich-Jeff Barry composition whose performance by Darlene Love is one of the highlights of the Spector LP. And Madonna vamps her way through what has to be the ultimate materialistic yuletide song: the 1953 Eartha Kitt hit "Santa Baby," which contains such immortal Material Girl lines as "Just give me a ring/I don't mean on the phone. . . ."

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