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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
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. However, the label's 1999 edition of Merry
Christmas is the one to get - beautifully packaged and mastered, including
several bonus tracks from the same sessions. These tracks include a Harvey
Fuqua composition, "Just A Lonely Christmas," and a rare Florence
Ballard lead vocal on "Silent Night." Universal's 2003 reissue, 20th
Century Masters: The Christmas Collection, is virtually identical to
the remastered Merry
Christmas, but the 2015 digital-only Expanded Edition folds in mono and stereo versions with even more rarities.
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 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. [top of page]
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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