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5 burst upon the scene in the early 70's, they appeared
to be the salvation of Detroit's Motown Records. Turned
out, the group's success was Motown's last hurrah before the label packed
up and moved west, abandoning the distinctive pop/soul sound that put it
on the map. Nevertheless, the Jackson 5's Christmas
Album (1970) is a fine example of why people looked
to the group with such hope. It brims with energy and
inventiveness, and their reinterpretations of tired old
Christmas classics are still being imitated. For instance,
their arrangement of "Santa Claus Is Coming To Town" (itself suspiciously
similar to the Four Seasons' 1962 version) has become de rigueur for
modern rock and R&B acts (cf. Bruce Springsteen, Pointer Sisters).
Michael Jackson - then a precocious, preteen whirling dervish of soul
- is predictably the star of Christmas
Album, stealing the show on "I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa
"Someday At Christmas" - originally recorded
by another Motown preteen, Stevie Wonder. But, his brothers
acquit themselves nicely on songs like "Have Yourself
A Merry Little Christmas" (featuring Jermaine, I think) and the Motown-penned "Christmas
Won't Be The Same This Year" (built on a strong ensemble arrangement).
In 2003, Universal (now Motown's parent company) began releasing a slew of
Christmas CD's under their generic 20th Century Masters umbrella.
Most were redundant and pointless - deceptive repackagings of previously adequate
(or superior) packages. In the case of the Jackson 5, however, the change was
for the better. Entitled The
Best Of Jackson 5: The Christmas Collection, this is definitely the version
to seek out. Most importantly, the music was remastered - noticably improved
compared to Motown's lackluster 1986 CD reissue.
Even further, Universal appended
Michael's 1973 solo track, "Little Christmas Tree," originally released
on the stupendous Motown Christmas
Album - which, by the way, everyone on the face of the earth should own
(read more). A 2009 edition, Ultimate Christmas Collection - released just months after Michael Jackson's death - includes all the same tracks plus a handful of dubious rarities (including seasons greetings from all the brothers).
No matter what package, however, the Jackson 5's Christmas
Album is a wonderfully consistent record: pure
Christmas cheer, pure Motown pop, and the best single Christmas album the
storied label ever produced. [top of page]
Won't Be The Same This Year
Give Love On Christmas Day
Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas
I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus
Little Christmas Tree (Michael Jackson, 1973)
Santa Claus Is Coming To Town
Someday At Christmas
Up On The House Top
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