James Brown – Funky Christmas
This is one of the stranger xMas albums I own. Some of it is excellent. Some of it is bizarre Some of the songs are perennial standards. Some of the songs are little more than funky soul noodling, more demos than actual songs. But overall it’s a fun compilation of James Brown’s holiday singles and albums over the years.
It starts with the excellent “Go Power At Christmas Time.” This song has a great hook and is super funky, but in the middle of it, James just starts riffing about other projects he’s got in the works: “Now Ski Party, you know, that movie we made. That was alright too. That much is true. But the new one is called Loud!” And then he just starts naming different instruments. The song goes onto an extended coda with James just yelling different non-sequiturs. It sounds odder in writing than it sounds coming out of your speakers, but still… This is a great cut.
“Let’s Unite The Whole World At Christmas” is a cool soul crooner. “Santa Claus Go Straight To The Ghetto” is, lyrically, James getting back to his roots. Musically, the band is as tight as ever. “Let’s Make Christmas Mean Something This Year” brings in a trio of back up singers harmonizing the title in the chorus, in between which James just extemporizes – on what he’s thankful for, the weather, nostalgia, looking forward to the future. He belts out some signature James Brown screams over his back up singers. This is another one that seems like it should be awful when I put it to words, but it sure sounds great on the stereo.
James offers his take on only a couple xMas standards, “Merry Christmas Baby” and “The Christmas Song.” They’re fair versions, to be sure, but the real focus of this compilation is on his funky originals, and there no shortage of those. At seventeen songs and over an hour of music, James delivers all the bang for your xMas music buck. Over the years I have found that this album works best when shuffled in among a widely varied holiday playlist, but it doesn’t feel like xMas without a little James Brown on the box.
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Tune in for tomorrow for the next installment in the 12 Days Of xMas Music.
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Until next time, keep those discs spinning. Merry Christmas and all the rest…