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Rod Stewart Christmas special to air on PBS

Rod Stewart’s “Merry Christmas Baby” album will be celebrated PBS special Dec. 1.

Rod Stewart’s “Merry Christmas, Baby” album will be celebrated in a PBS special on Dec. 1.

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Updated: November 29, 2012 5:04PM

When you’ve made it big in the pop-music world, a Christmas album is practically a rite of passage, one that’s been embraced by everyone from Frank Sinatra to Twisted Sister.

This yuletide season brings snuggle-by-the-hearth offerings from Lady Antebellum, Colbie Caillat and the reunited “Grease” duo of John Travolta and Olivia Newton-John. But Rod Stewart also wants to stuff your stocking.

“I’ve been putting this album off for a long time, but once I knew I could get [producer and arranger] David Foster involved, I was in,” says Stewart of “Merry Christmas, Baby.” Foster, who has produced top-selling Christmas albums by Josh Groban and Andrea Bocelli, is chairman of Verve Music Group, the division of Universal Music Group that Stewart now calls home.

The album’s 13 holiday staples range from “Santa Claus Is Coming to Town” to the title track, which features Cee Lo Green and Trombone Shorty. Other guests include Mary J. Blige (“We Three Kings”) and Michael Buble (“Winter Wonderland”). Smooth jazz sax ace Dave Koz blows on “Let It Snow! Let It Snow! Let It Snow!.”

But by far the most emotional duet for Stewart was the one on “What Are You Doing New Year’s Eve?” opposite late legend Ella Fitzgerald.

“I’ve been a fan of hers since I was 17, and let me tell you, at that age in my part of [London], that wasn’t exactly fashionable, says Stewart, 67. “When it came time to record that track alongside her amazing voice, well, that was a tear-jerker moment for me.”

While Stewart is proud of the way he acquitted himself opposite the First Lady of Song, he is quick to pass on any other credit for the album’s possible success to Foster. “He’s as close to a genius with this stuff as you can come,” he says. “He was the mastermind, I was just the singer.”

PBS is airing “Rod Stewart: Merry Christmas, Baby” as part of its “Great Performances” series (8 p.m. Dec. 20). The special was filmed at a lavish Los Angeles villa overlooking the Pacific Ocean and will feature the album’s guest stars as well as a new holiday composition, penned by Stewart, Foster and his daughter Amy Foster, titled “Red-Suited Super Man.”

Gannett News Service

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