The last few years have seen an explosion of Christmas music, the disposable nature and large numbers of traditional songs immediately available means the genre is ripe for releasing downloads in time for the holiday season. But here’s a whole album of unashamedly retro Christmas music! Funk and soul from perhaps the finest soul band on the planet – Sharon Jones and the Dap Kings. Christmas albums can be hard to pull together – keeping the quality and interest high through a dozen tracks of Christmas songs has proven beyond many bands.
“Ain’t No Chimneys in the Projects” is the stand out track for me, an original song, which should get a lot more airplay this Christmas (it’s been out for a couple of years). If someone makes the “Shaft’s Christmas vacation” movie, then this would be playing over the title sequence. I’m already imagining the bit where Shaft walks through a snowy New York wrapped up in warm clothes and looking at tatty Christmas decorations. Funky horns and a social message wrapped up with a Christmas bow.
The other highlights are “White Christmas” which is actually the classic sounding like it’s in a mashup with Proud Mary, which works way better than it has any right to. “Just Another Christmas Song” is anything but – a genuinely cool song for Christmas. And it would take a particular Grinch not to smile as Ms Jones sings “Baby You Got Them Big Bulbs” (On “Big Bulbs”).
There are a couple of minor quibbles; Little Funky Drummer Boy was probably a better idea on paper than as a track in reality. I’m also not sure we need yet another version of Silver Bells, that must be the go-to Christmas filler track of the last 5 years.
Ultimately though, it passes the crucial test – it’s a good album, and not merely “good for a Christmas” album. Tracks that you’ll actually welcome when you hear them mixed in with the rest of the usual Christmas music. Actual songs, that when they come on while you are out shopping in the next two months, you won’t want to kill anyone!
It’s out on 20th November – which is a little early for Christmas, but we’ll forgive them. This time.