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SupremesTo 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.

Merry 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 Motown.

SupremesThanks 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 that is, to my ears, the best holiday track the girls ever waxed; look for it on Christmas In The City or Motown Christmas Vol. 2. The latter 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 tracks included a Harvey Fuqua composition, "Just A Lonely Christmas," a rare Florence Ballard lead vocal on "Silent Night," and 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 Gome 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 it would - in a perfect world - serve as a model for further Motown reissues. [top of page]

Albums Albums

SongsSongs

  • Little 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)

Further ListeningFurther Listening

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