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To hard-core soul freaks, The
Supremes represent the weakest thoroughbred in the
Motown stable. Polished and pretty (and popular), the
trio does not compare favorably to the mighty Temptations
or the majestic Four Tops. But, singer Diana Ross was
the very pinnacle of Motown founder Berry Gordy's dream
to succeed in mainstream (i.e. white) America (read more). Subsequently,
the Supremes' music veered far away from pure soul.
Which is not to say it's bad - it's just not soul.
What it is, is pop - usually darn good pop
- that succeeds on it's own terms.
Christmas (1965) is no exception - in fact, it's
whiter than usual. While it may rank as the worst Motown
Christmas album, that's a competitive league - like
saying someone is the worst player in the NBA. Simply
put, most Motown fans will adore the crap out of it.
Most impressively, Merry
Christmas has a high quotient of original material,
and while "Children's Christmas Song" is the
perhaps the most annoying single the label ever released,
"Little Bright Star" is top-notch, vintage
Thanks to Motown's aggressive marketing, a number of other
rare Supremes tracks have leaked out over the years on a variety of compilations.
Of particular interest is "Won't Be Long Before Christmas," a
1967 effort recorded for a Disney tribute album Motown never released. That's a shame, because, to my ears, it's the best holiday track the girls ever waxed! Look for it on Christmas
In The City or Motown
Christmas Vol. 2. The former CD also contains Diana Ross' 1976 solo rendition of Donny Hathaway's "This
Christmas," her first and only solo Christmas recording for Motown.
Motown has reissued Merry
Christmas on CD a number of times, including an early 2-on-1 disc paired
with Stevie Wonder's 1967 LP, Someday
At Christmas. The label's 1999 edition of Merry
Christmas was beautifully packaged and mastered, with
several bonus tracks from the same sessions. These include a Harvey
Fuqua composition, "Just A Lonely Christmas," a rare Florence
Ballard lead vocal on "Silent Night," and Ross' confident reading of Mel Torme's "Christmas Song," plus the aforementioned "Won't Be Long Before Christmas." While Universal's 2003 reissue, 20th
Century Masters: The Christmas Collection, was virtually identical to
the remastered Merry
Christmas, the 2015 digital-only Expanded Edition folds in mono and stereo versions with even more rarities.
However, all these were rendered irrelevant by The Ultimate Merry Christmas (2017), a two-disc set from Real Gone Music that includes just about everything from all the above plus more - for a total of 50 tracks. While Merry Christmas may not be Motown's finest Christmas album, The Ultimate Merry Christmas is its best-ever representation, and - in a perfect world - would serve as a model for further Motown reissues. [top of page]
- The Christmas Song (Chestnuts Roasting On An Open Fire) (1965)
- Just A Lonely Christmas (1965)
Bright Star (1965)
My Favorite Things (1965)
Santa Claus Is Coming To Town (1965)
Twinkle Twinkle Little Me (1965)
White Christmas (1965)
Won't Be Long Before Christmas (1967)
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