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Album Review / Pop

Celine Dion Aims to Be the Christmas Star

** 1/2 CELINE DION, "These Are Special Times," 550 Music/Sony

October 30, 1998|RANDY LEWIS

Fear not, Celine-o-philes. This Christmas, her hearth will go on.

Actually, there's little as homey and intimate as a hearth on this collection of seasonal tunes old and new, which is due in stores Tuesday. Dion's musical home for the holidays is a voluminous, gleaming cathedral.

And, as you'd expect, her gift bag is filled to overflowing with titanic orchestral and choral forces and song after song that swells to a shattering climax.

This vocal and stylistic showcase allows her to soar as a singer--if not always touch as an interpreter--in English, French, Spanish and Italian. Arrangements run from modestly jazzy ("Blue Christmas") to modestly rocking (the Spector-inspired "Christmas Eve") to modestly R&B ("I'm Your Angel," her duet with R. Kelly).

Of course, those magnificent pipes command attention whatever they're wrapped around. She certainly does better with classic stuff such as "O Holy Night" (she doesn't bring much to the line about sin and error pining, but she sings the bejesus out of "O night divine") and "Ave Maria" than fellow pop wailer Michael Bolton did on his 1996 Christmas album. (Exception: a sinfully overstuffed arrangement that leeches all the simple charm out of Brahms' Lullaby.)

Look for chestnuts roasting on somebody else's open fire. This one's all about the power and the glory of one voice. Amen.

*

Albums are rated on a scale of one star (poor), two stars (fair), three stars (good) and four stars (excellent). The albums are already released unless otherwise noted.

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