Sick of hearing Band Aid and Slade over the festive season? It doesn’t have to be like that. You can have your Christmas tunes delivered with soul, just check out these five soulful Christmas albums to get you going – most costing very little cash.
1. James Brown – Funky Christmas (Polydor)
JB is no longer in the building, but his Christmas collection is become a regular around the festive season. A compilation of all of James Brown’s Christmas work including tracks from his 1966 LP, Christmas Song and his ’72 recording, Hey America, it’s a mix of self-penned tunes, covers of early 60s R&B Christmas tunes and some full-on festive funk. Who can resist Soulful Christmas?
Best of all, this is super cheap. Amazon is knocking it out for under £3.
2. Various Artists – In The Christmas Groove (Strut Records)
A new addition this year, but Christmas Groove is worth checking out, even if it’s no classic. Culling together lesser-known funky Christmas grooves, you’ll hear the likes of Jimmy Reed’s Christmas Present Blues, Soul Santa by Funk Machine and J.D. McDonald’s Boogaloo Santa Claus and a Hammond-powered Auld Lang Syne by Black on White Affair. Some I can leave (Funky Funky Christmas is a bit too ‘disco’, as is Jimmy Jules’ The New Year for that matter). But if you see it cheap, it might add a kick to your Christmas dinner.
3. Phil Spector – A Christmas Gift For You (Polydor)
I’ve tried to miss it out, but you know what? Over 40 since its release, A Christmas Gift For You is still the best Christmas album out there, bar none. All your Christmas standards, but with that Wall Of Sound production – White Christmas, Frosty The Snowman, Santa Claus Is Coming To Town, Rudolph The Red-Nosed Reindeer and Silent Night – they’re all here and still as fresh as ever. But even better, you can pick up the double version, packing a disc full of Phil Spector favourites as a bonus for under £5 right now – an absolute steal!
4. Various Artists – The Motown Christmas Collection (Spectrum)
There have been plenty of Motown Christmas collections in the past, but last year, Universal pulled them all together and released the Motown Christmas Collection, a two-disc set for a very reasonable price.
33 tracks featuring a who’s who of Motown – Stevie Wonder, The Supremes, Smokey Robinson, Marvin Gaye,The Temptations, Kim Weston…you know the score. Plenty of Christmas standards too (including Jingle Bells, White Christmas, Let It Snow and Frosty The Snowman), along with some lesser-known originals.
All for those tracks for under £5. If you love your Motown, it’s a no-brainer.
5. Various Artists – Rhythm & Blues Christmas (Ace Records)
Motown and Spector too obvious for you? Ace Records might be able to help with Rhythm & Blues Christmas.
Not as easy to find (possibly been deleted?), it’s a collection of 20 blues, R&B and doo wop takes on the Christmas thing, with higher profile names like B.B. King and Lowell Fulsom mixing it with lesser-known lights of the 50s and early 60s. It’s not the happiest album you’ll hear over Christmas, but it’s certainly one of the more interesting festive releases out there.
Also operating in the same ball park is Mark Lamarr’s Rhythm & Blues Christmas, which you can find out about here.