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Jackson Five, "Christmas Album"When the Jackson 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 Claus" and "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]

Albums Albums

SongsSongs

  • Christmas 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

Further ListeningFurther Listening

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