When we started last week, we mentioned that “A Motown Christmas” has long been one of our holiday faves. We’ve been playing it for 30 years now.
From the beginning, Motown and its associated labels made sure their top artists put out Christmas albums. Berry Gordy undoubtedly recognized their perpetual money-making potential.
Today, we have three tunes from two albums from two Motown groups.
When this album was released on the Tamla label in October 1963, they were still known only as the Miracles, the lead singer was still known as William Robinson and his wife, Claudette, was still in the group.
There’s lots to like on “Christmas With the Miracles,” which was produced by the Miracles’ Ronnie White with help from Smokey Robinson. The Funk Brothers, the Motown house band, provides the backing. Need I say more?
“Santa Claus is Coming To Town” and “Christmas Everyday,” the Miracles, from “Christmas With the Miracles,” 1963. It’s out of print.
You’ll dig the percussion and the groove on the first cut. Smokey Robinson wrote the second cut, a great little slice of the early Motown sound.
If you look closely at the cover, you’ll see only four Miracles. They had five members at the time, but bass singer Pete Moore was in the service when the photo was taken.
By the time “The Temptations’ Christmas Card” was released on the Gordy label in 1970, the Funk Brothers’ solid yet spare backing had given way to more lush orchestration. Even so, there are some nice moments on it.
“Someday at Christmas,” the Temptations, from “The Temptations’ Christmas Card,” 1970.
Bass singer Melvin Franklin takes the lead on this Motown original written by Ron Miller and Bryan Wells. Recorded first by Stevie Wonder in 1967, it addresses the social concerns of that time — and of our time — war, poverty, civil rights, injustice. Wonder’s take on it is pretty good, too.
(Housekeeping note: Please let me know if there is a problem with the links to the tunes. Savefile has been acting erratically lately. Thanks.)