Neil Diamond’s Christmas Special

Band: Vince Charles, King Errison, Tom Hensley, Hadley Hockensmith, Alan Lindgren, Reinie Press, Doug Rhone, Ron Tutt.

Band: Vince Charles, King Errison, Tom Hensley, Hadley Hockensmith, Alan Lindgren, Reinie Press, Doug Rhone, Ron Tutt.

Neil Diamond brings the passion of hot August nights to the 12 days of Christmas, offering some impressive interpretations of the season’s standards in this finely tuned presentation.

Diamond kicks off what promises to be a holiday season full of superstar fronted specials, with many like Diamond drawing tunes from their recently released album of Christmas songs. (Diamond’s “The Christmas Album” was released by Columbia Records last month.)

The program, which was taped during a break in Diamond’s “Love in the Round” tour, is filled with spirited readings of Christmas classics by the singer, who is aided at times by enormous choirs, doo-wop and gospel singers.

Traditional versions of the songs are buffered by some unique arrangements to help keep the pace quick and lively, even for a Christmas special.

Diamond fronts a doo-wop group for an interesting spin on “White Christmas,” which is sure to be as memorable as the Bing Crosby/David Bowie duet of “Little Drummer Boy,” performed on a Crosby special years ago.

Lilting choir voices mixing with Diamond’s vocal growl provide some of the program’s higher points, while parents are sure to gush when the singer is joined by a children’s choir for a moving “We Three Kings of Orient Are.”

A rocking “Santa Claus is Comin’ to Town” packs a perfectly placed wallop.

Technical aspects of the show are top-notch, with Dwight Hemion’s direction first-rate.

Neil Diamond's Christmas Special

(Sat. (28), 10-11 p.m., HBO)

Production: Taped by Arch Angel Television Prods. and Smith-Hemion Prods. Exec producer, Sandy Gallin; producers, Gary Smith, Dwight Hemion; director, Hemion.

Crew: Editor, Bruce Motyer; production designer, Ray Klausen.

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