Merry Christmas (Expanded Edition)

The Brothers Four

Real Gone Music, 2014

REVIEW BY: David Bowling


The lights went on for The Brothers Four way back in 1956 when John Paine, Mike Kirkland, Dick Foley, and Bob Flick were students at the University of Washington. They were a folk group who gained popularity in the early folk revival movement. They began by playing frat parties and local clubs for beer money, but by 1960, they were signed to the Columbia label. Their single release “Greenfields” reached number two on the Billboardmy_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250 Hot 100.

The Brothers Four released 19 albums during the years of 1960 to 1970. Real Gone Music has now reissued their 1966 holiday album Merry Christmas. It arrives with a remastered sound and four bonus tracks, which were originally singles.

They were at heart a fairly traditional folk group. Their harmonies may have made them a little slicker and smoother than the norm, but their material consistently explored folk traditions. They were regulars on the college circuit during the early 1960s and that helped them develop an intimate approach to their music, which comes across on their recordings.

The group released their only Christmas album in 1966. It is an album of very recognizable Christmas songs presented in a laidback style. Tracks such as “God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen,” “Away In A Manger,” “Silent Night,” and “I’ll Be Home For Christmas” flow along and form a nice background of easy listening music.

The West Indian Carol, “The Borning Day,” and “Mary’s Little Boy Child” travel in a different direction as the rhythms are outside of traditional American folk music.

The bonus tracks were released in 1961 and 1964. “What Child Is This (Greensleeves)” and “Go Tell It On The Mountain” are nice counterpoints to much of what is on the album and make welcome additions.

Merry Christmas is not an adventurous release as the Brothers Four takes few chances. It also sounds somewhat dated today as their brand of folk music is out of vogue. Still, taken on its own terms, it is a pleasant listen that looks back to a bygone era.

Rating: B-

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© 2014 David Bowling and The Daily Vault. All rights reserved. Review or any portion may not be reproduced without written permission. Cover art is the intellectual property of Real Gone Music, and is used for informational purposes only.