I’m typically not a fan of “deluxe anniversary editions” of recordings that have already become fan favorites. More often than not, they are uninspired retreads that include an unreleased song or two, and are primarily repackaged to move more product. They typically don’t contain anything revelatory — or even worth purchasing.
Producer David Foster once told me that if tracks were left off of an album — and that’s typically the genesis of “bonus” cuts — they were omitted for a reason.
Mariah Carey has bucked that trend with the exceptional Merry Christmas Deluxe Anniversary Edition, marking 25 years since the initial release of her first holiday collection, Merry Christmas.
I won’t spend a lot of time revisiting the original album, which comprises the first of this two disc release, although it’s worth a mention that it has been beautifully remastered. If you’re still listening to the original 1994 release, you’re in for a Christmas treat.
The original Merry Christmas album includes the perennial favorite “All I Want For Christmas Is You,” the underrated “Miss You Most (At Christmastime),” and Holy Ghost-filled versions of “O Holy Night,” “Joy To The World,” “Jesus Born On This Day,” and “Jesus Oh What A Wonderful Child.” This edition’s first disc also includes a fantastic bonus track, “God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen.”
The real joy of this anniversary edition, be it to Carey’s faithful, to anyone who likes singing over substance, or to the world lies on the second disc. Half of it is audio from a never-before-released New York concert, recorded just weeks after the album’s initial release in 1994.
If you like Merry Christmas, you have to hear it. Live versions of about half of the original album are featured. Carey sounds incredible, as it predates the elusive chanteuse’s more recent, disastrous lip synch slip ups by at least a couple of decades. (Do you remember Carey’s NYE faux pas from a few years ago? If not, good.)
Remember the Mariah Carey of old, circa Unplugged. Better yet, don’t remember her: listen to her — revel in her during this gem of a concert.
This new release’s second disc also includes fun remixes of “All I Want For Christmas Is You,” the Legend-redeeming duet “When Christmas Comes,” and fun cuts from Carey’s second Christmas album Merry Christmas II You (including “Christmas Time Is In The Air Again” and the smile-inducing “Oh Santa”).
It also includes the beautiful 2017 ballad, “The Star.” Think “Hero” for the Christmas crowd. And because Carey cut the song in the recording studio, not live on stage, in 2017, she sounds fine.
And do you want to know the best part of the release’s second disc? It’s free! The entire package is priced at the cost of a single album.
We didn’t see that coming in 1994. In fact, “All I Want For Christmas Is You” wasn’t even issued as a single upon the album’s original release, as it was considered a bit too retro for 90’s R & B and pop ears. Carey opted to promote “Miss You Most (At Christmas Time) to the R & B / pop market while pushing “Oh Holy Night” to gospel / contemporary Christian radio when she released the album the first time around.
Like a snowball rolling down a hill, “All I Want For Christmas Is You” kinda built a following over time. It’s now just the second Christmas song to ever reach the top of the pop chart.
Get it, Mimi.