Greetings pop pickers! I figured that this being the time of year when people go nuts for lists, mainly of presents for “Santa” admittedly, then I might as well take part by giving you my Christmas album Top Ten. I hope that I’ll be only one of many bloggers to do this, so that just about justifies my “Porno Galore II: Orgy of the Xmas Blogs” header at the top of this. Moving on, here’s my top ten Christmas albums, please add your top ten or top five or top one or why you don’t like Christmas albums as comments.
1. “A Christmas Gift For You From Phil Spector”. Okay this is so completely obvious it is embarrassing, BUT actually this is a great album. I don’t usually go for alleged “classics”, but there simply isn’t a better Christmas album! Dating from 1963, for me the standout tracks are The Crystals doing “Santa Claus Is Coming To Town” and the great Darlene Love covering “Winter Wonderland”. But it also works as a brilliant whole. Me rating this as “number one with a bullet” also gives you an excuse to add comments about the Phil Spector murder trial and stuff like that (what a scumbag, never forget Lana Clarkson…).
2 “Funky Christmas” by James Brown. Yeah this is a CD repackaging of two different Christmas albums by the Godfather of Soul; you get all of the 1966 “Christmas Song” long player and highlights from the 1972 “Hey America, It’s Christmas”. Like 17 heavy weight soul tunes – some original compositions, some covers of Christmas r & b tunes, and even some messages like “Let’s Unite The Whole World At Christmas” (and as was the case back in the sixties, an end to American led imperialist wars would still be a good start towards that today…).
3. “In The Christmas Spirit” by Booker T. & The MG’s. More like in the spirit of southern soul; the MGs doin’ their soulful instrumental take on Christmas standards ( “Jingle Bells”, “Santa Claus Is Coming To Town”, “Winter Wonderland”, “White Christmas” etc.). If you like the MG”s “Green Onions” then you’ll love this album, which was recorded way back when in 1966, and makes Memphis sound like the funkiest place to spend Christmas (outside of Atlanta anyway).
4. “Christmas With The Miracles” by Smokey Robinson & The Miracles. Like the Phil Spector Christmas album this dates from 1963 and is easily the best of the many Motown Christmas releases. No surprises here, just standards (“Santa Claus Is Coming To Town”, “Winter Wonderland”, “White Christmas” etc.) but brilliantly arranged and soulfully sung; if I could warble like Smokey I sure would be one happy bunny….
5. “Tiny Tim’s Christmas Album”. This is another “star” (of sorts) who made his reputation back in the sixties – but this here super dumb and sleazy release was actually recorded in Australia in 1995… Probably the craziest Christmas album you’ll ever hear. There are the obvious standards like “White Christmas” and “Rudolph The Red Nosed Reindeer” but you’ve never heard them done quite like this… My favourite tracks are “All I Want For Christmas Is My Two Front Teeth” and “I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus”. If this doesn’t make you laugh like a hyena then you must be dead!
6. “Merry Christmas” by Diana Ross & The Supremes. Diana Ross didn’t exactly have the best voice in the world (or even in the Supremes) but she was shagging Motown record boss Berry Gordy, so she got pushed out front to do the lead. Miss Ross sounds pretty awful on the opener “White Christmas” but the backing is a groove. However things improve vocally and the backing remains great right thru the album. Ross somehow manages to belt it out on the more rocking tracks like “Santa Claus Is Coming To Town” (I wonder how many takes that took???). I like The Supremes despite the endless put downs they get from soul and blues purists. Sure they recorded more dross than most Motown acts but how can anybody not dig their hits? Of course, my favourite Supremes song isn’t on “Merry Christmas” because it is the theme tune to the Vincent Price vehicle “Dr. Goldfoot & The Bikini Machine”, but what you do get here is a gas.
7. “Christmas On Death Row” A compilation of the obvious standards (okay so material like “Santa Claus Goes Straight To The Ghetto” by Snoop Doggy Dog isn’t an obvious standard if you grew up on Bing Crosby, but it won’t come as too much of a surprise to those who prefer screaming for the James Brown style). Death Row boss Suge Knight (in particular) and gangsta rap (in general) suck big time from an ideological perspective, but there is no denying the power of the grooves on this 1997 release. So great booty shakers, but they remain slightly marred by the fact that those producing them obsess about guns and gold…
8. “A Soulful Christmas With Jackie Wilson” Yeah, I can get stuck in a bit of a sixties groove at times, but what can you do? Standards like “White Christmas”, “Deck The Halls” and “I’ll Be Home For Christmas” sung by Jackie Wilson. It’s great, nuff said!
9. “The Christmas Album” by Shakatak. Christmas in a funky disco groove, the usual standards (“Winter Wonderland”, “White Christmas” etc.) mixed with some original festive compositions by Shakatak. Dating from 1993, this is a late outing from the band since they’d peaked as an act many years before; but still makes my top ten; it’s good not great but then I can’t actually think of ten “great” Christmas albums. Maybe you can help me out in the comments….
10. “The Electrifying Eddie Harris”. Okay so this ain’t a Christmas album, it’s just an old favourite of mine that I’ve been playing frequently recently, but I’m already completely sick of hearing Christmas songs…. Just gimme a break and accept this as my break from the Christmas album as a genre….
And while you’re at it don’t forget to check – www.stewarthomesociety.org – you know it makes (no) sense!