Christmas With the New Christy Minstrels: Complete! offers not one, but two albums by the group of the same name. Interestingly, because of a number of personnel changes, none of the members present for Merry Christmas! in 1963 remained with the group in 1966 when Christmas With the Christies was recorded. While the group has been eclipsed by Peter, Paul, and Mary over time, the New Christy Minstrels' star shone as bright as any folk group in the mid-'60s. The group carved out a unique choral sound, achieved with the help of nine members. When the Christies combined complex arrangements with several talented lead singers on songs like "Beautiful City" and "Tell It on the Mountain," they created a rich tapestry of sound. With nine singers, only the most ardent fans know that the group was the brainchild of Randy Sparks, or that Nick Woods and Art Podell handled the arrangements on the early albums. The bottom line to most fans was how good the group sounded on songs like "The Shepherd Boy" and "Parson Brown." In fact, quite a few people consider Merry Christmas! to be the group's best album and have been listening to scratchy copies of the LP for over 25 Christmases. If this album shines less brightly, it has something to do with the more formalized arrangements and pop production. The New Christy Minstrels, like many folk groups, weren't quite sure how to carry on in the midst of the British Invasion and folk rock. Still, it's nice to have both albums together along with several bonus tracks. Christmas With the New Christy Minstrels: Complete! is fun holiday music. ~ Ronnie D. Lankford, Jr.