Whether it’s for listening on the day or giving as a gift, here are a few suggestions for vinyl albums for a soulful Christmas.
Because Christmas doesn’t have to be about Band Aid and Last Christmas. Festive songs didn’t suddenly appear in the 1970s with Slade, Mud and Wizzard (not that there’s anything wrong with enjoying those). You can also enjoy some vintage soul and R&B tunes, too.
There are some streaming sites you can use if you have a smart speaker in the house. I would heartily recommend Jolly Ol’ Soul (which is a mix of classic soul ‘holiday’ tracks from the people who brought us 7-inch Soul). But many of us would rather own our music, and there’s nothing like the sound of vinyl for authenticity.
Luckily, there are a few options these days for some old-school, soulful vinyl sounds – and here are five for starters. Most should be reasonably easy to find.
New out for this year on vinyl and a slight reworking on a past compilation (Christmas In Soulsville) with some unreleased material. All the Stax names are here, including Otis Redding, The Staple Singers, Booker T and the MGs, Carla Thomas, Rufus Thomas and more. Note that an alternative mix of ‘Merry Christmas Baby’ by Otis Redding and a newly unearthed version of the classic ‘Blue Christmas’ by Carla Thomas are exclusive to this one.
£32.99 for this one. Just £11.99 if you can deal with the CD.
Rhythm & Blues Christmas
It does what it says on the sleeve – and with an Ace Records product, you know you are getting some decent sounds.
Ace got onto this soul Christmas thing early, and there are some CD comps kicking about if you prefer that format. But this is a special vinyl collection, pulling together 14 blues, R&B and doo-wop sides from their Christmas R&B range and, thankfully, for a jolly time of the year, keeping most things upbeat.
BB King and Lowell Fulsom, you’ll know. Oscar McLollie & The Honey Jumpers, perhaps less so. But it’s reasonably priced (for vinyl) at £18, so worth considering.
A Christmas Gift for You by Phil Spector
You might already own this. Many of us do. But this year, it is available as picture disc vinyl if that appeals to its 60th anniversary.
The kind of album that’s hard to talk about in detail because there’s a good chance you know and love it already. But this a mid-20th century classic, an album of Christmas songs, produced by Phil Spector and originally released in November 1963.
Darlene Love, The Ronettes, The Crystals…you know it and undoubtedly know every word and note. But you might not have it on vinyl – and not on picture disc vinyl.
£27.99 if you do want to add it to your collection.
Soul Christmas coloured vinyl
Not content with populating most of Stax Christmas, many of the same artists are featured here with different Christmas tracks.
Soul Christmas was originally released as a compilation on Atlantic’s sub-label, ATCO Records, back in 1968 and, as I said, features many who appeared on the Stax album, plus a few more too. The likes of Otis Redding, Carla Thomas, Solomon Burke, Joe Tex, Clarence Carter, William Bell, King Curtis, and Booker T. & The MGs.
The new vinyl is an upgrade in quality, with coloured vinyl also on the table. Harder to find, though, and pricey at £38.30.
Stevie Wonder – Someday At Christmas
This has been reissued, but it’s still a hard one to find at a reasonable price.
There are some Motown Christmas albums, but they tend to be a bit hit-and-miss. This one is pretty good. It would be. It’s Stevie Wonder.
Originally released back in 1967 (and reissued a couple of years back), it features original songs, including ‘What Christmas Means To Me’, and Bedtime For Toys’ plus the title song as well as soulful versions of ‘Silver Bells’, ‘The Little Drummer Boy’, and ‘The Christmas Song (Merry Christmas To You)’.
There are copies on Amazon for just over £30 but try Discogs too.
And something more modern…
Sharon Jones and The Dap Kings – It’s a Holiday Soul Party
Soul doesn’t have to be rooted in a past decade. There have been plenty of good options in more recent years. And few are better than Sharon Jones and The Dap Kings.
The funky soul of Sharon Jones and The Dap Kings will get you in the party mood with a mix of originals and reworked classics of the season. Note also the current version is in candy cane-coloured vinyl, which might well add to the appeal.
£19.99 makes it one of the more affordable options, too.
Other honourable mentions:
There are various James Brown compilations of Christmas songs, some better than others, but none are available on vinyl right now. A Soulful Christmas is probably the one to get.
Lou Rawls’ Merry Christmas Ho Ho Ho is another one to consider, and of course, there are plenty of Motown compilations too, which tend to be ok, but not as good as you imagine and largely confined to CD.