Jackson 5 - Ultimate Christmas Collection (2009)

Jackson 5
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Full, fluffy fro's, pearly-white grins, air-tight harmonies and youthful voices replete with old-school soul. It's hard to believe that 40 years ago, The Jackson Five coupled their homegrown talent and tenacity with Motown's musical and marketing genius and became one of the most influential family goups in history. And given their four back-to-back number one hits, cutie-pie kid appeal and white-hot popularity, it was a no-brainer to market their magic by way of a Christmas CD.  But Berry Gordy Jr. wasn't content to just rehash the oldies without adding some ingenuity to the mix. So, for fans who missed out on the orginal 1970 release or just want to bring some much-needed joy to the holidays since we've tragically been deprived of its lead vocalist, the Ultimate Christmas Collection: The Jackson 5 includes the well-worn favorites, stripped-down demo-esque versions, a remix and rarities that make it a must-have for any hardcore Jackson Five fanatic.

Full, fluffy fro's, pearly-white grins, air-tight harmonies and youthful voices replete with old-school soul. It's hard to believe that 40 years ago, The Jackson Five coupled their homegrown talent and tenacity with Motown's musical and marketing genius and became one of the most influential family goups in history. And given their four back-to-back number one hits, cutie-pie kid appeal and white-hot popularity, it was a no-brainer to market their magic by way of a Christmas CD.  But Berry Gordy Jr. wasn't content to just rehash the oldies without adding some ingenuity to the mix. So, for fans who missed out on the orginal 1970 release or just want to bring some much-needed joy to the holidays since we've tragically been deprived of its lead vocalist, the Ultimate Christmas Collection: The Jackson 5 includes the well-worn favorites, stripped-down demo-esque versions, a remix and rarities that make it a must-have for any hardcore Jackson Five fanatic.

The Motown's "Corporation"-penned original tunes still stand the test of time when paired with the traditional ones: "Frosty the Snowman," "Santa Claus Is Coming To Town," and "Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer" make great use of Michael's exuberant leads, and others focusing on Jermaine (the spirited "Christmas Won't Be The Same This Year," the meditative "Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas" and "The Christmas Song") hint at the sheer versatility and sophistication that would keep the group afloat in its adult years. Marlon, Tito and Jackie get to display their abilities to the fullest during "Up On The Rooftop," where their vocals bounce off of one another's with impeccable timing and tone.   

As for the extras, the six-second spoken greetings are nice, but not exactly essential (they all parrot one another practically to a T), and the stripped-down studio versions of "Someday at Christmas" and "Rudolph..." are fine, just less musically cluttered than the better-known ones. What IS enjoyble is the closing "J5 Christmas Medley," which stitches together several of the more upbeat tracks' opening new verses into a tailor-made party mix. The powerfully poignant rarity "Little Christmas Tree" and the angelic a capella rendering of "Give Love on Christmas Day," which highlights how very sweet and supple Michael's burgeoning tenor truly was, is worth the price of the CD alone.   So yes, there are some painfully contrived moments scattered here and there (hey, they were teens and pre-teens, what else could one expect?), but beyond those nearly-invisible flaws, this Ultimate Christmas Collection hearkens to a more innocent, less cynical time and place and cements The Jacksons' standing as one of the most exciting and enjoyable acts of our time. Just for the way it crystallizes Michael and his brothers' raw talents at this tender time in their careers, it's indisputably, enthusiastically and eternally recommended.  

By Melody Charles

 
Album of the Month - Juewett Bostick - Shades of Blu
Choice Cut - Kea Michaels - "Not My Friend"
Song of the Month - Bryan Andrew Wilson - "Only You'

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