|It's Christmas In Motown (1973)|
This Music For Pleasure compilation was a UK-only release and brings together previously released Motown material from five of their biggest artists "..all dedicated to the furtherance of festive harmony". It opens with what is quite possibly the best ever version of Up On The Housetop, here given an excitable pop-soul re-imagining by the Jackson 5, with Tito wishing for a guitar that never goes out of key, and Marlon in need of some new shoes "with lots of sole". Originally written in the 19th century, the best known version of this song is country star Gene Autrey's. Michael and co's barnstorming version couldn't be more different, and along with the other two songs representing them here it's taken from their 1970 "Jackson 5 Christmas Album".
Motown were no slouches when it came to exploiting the Christmas market, and in 1967 Stevie Wonder released the album "Someday At Christmas". Three songs from this appear on "It's Christmas In Motown", including the sentimental One Little Christmas Tree written by Motown staffers Ron Miller and Bryan Wells, and a great cover of the classic Christmas Song (Merry Christmas To You).
The pair of tunes offered up by the Temptations (Silent Night and Santa Claus Is Coming To Town from 1970's "The Temptations Christmas Card") are a little disappointing. If you're looking for a seasonal Tempt's album to buy I'd highly recommend their 1980 album "Give Love At Christmas" for some top-quality Yuletide R&B - they even re-recorded a much better version of Silent Night for it.
Two of the best songs here come from Smokey Robinson & The Miracles. Christmas Lullaby, co-written by Miracle Warren "Pete" Moore and two Motown writers tries to send us off to sleep with dreams of presents, including "something that Mommy will like". Oo-er! The rather Stax-y Christmas Every Day comes from the pen of Smokey himself and is essentially a love song with a vaguely Christmassy connection which first appeared on 1963's "Christmas With The Miracles".
Both tracks by Diana Ross & The Supremes on "It's Christmas In Motown" are taken from their 1965 album imaginatively titled "Merry Christmas". They supply us with a perky Rudolph The Red-Nosed Reindeer and lovely slowie My Christmas Tree written by Jimmy Webb (which in typical Motown recycling was also later recorded by the Tempts). The latter song is my favourite, as Diana never sounded better.
I was really pleased to find this album earlier in the year at a boot sale, as not only did it cost just £1, it also replaced the rather scratched copy I already had. Although its crackles conjured up a soothing log fire, it did have a couple of annoying skips!
There are loads of other Christmas offerings from Motown, many of the CD compilations duplicating tracks, so be wary and compare them before shelling out, but if you spot a vinyl copy of It's Christmas In Motown at a boot sale or chazza, be sure to grab it.
We're getting really close to Christmas day now, and the last installment of the countdown tomorrow (Weds 24th Dec) will feature two more festive boot sale LPs. Stream the Car Boot Christmas 2014 cloudcast below to get really Christmassy!