R&B, Blues, Soul & Stax

VOICES Notes and news on R&B, Blues, Soul & Stax releases

Funky Christmas

21 DEC 10 CHRIS SLAWECKI

You might not think of holiday music when you think of Stax Records, but the label released numerous singles of holiday and seasonal music by its biggest stars throughout its storied history, many of which are compiled on a journey through 2007's Christmas In Soulsville, available as part of Concord's holiday music promotion.

Christmas sounds classic and different here in Soulsville. Soft, floating falsetto lead vocals and companion harmonies help The Temprees make "The Christmas Song" sound merry and bright, and Booker T. & The MGs glide through a smooth groovin' "Winter Wonderland." Isaac Hayes polishes his piano and vocal in "The Mistletoe & Me" to a glossy pop finish, sweet and potent from strings and horns stirred like invigorating rum through his cup of holiday cheer.

Even among the twinkling holiday reds and greens, Soulsville is still home to plenty of blues. Hayes' "Winter Snow" mourns the passing of a romantic relationship with a woman whose heart is as cold as its title. Albert King's guitar buzzsaws into big city electric blues, while Sir Mack kicks up a southern country blues ruckus, in their respective takes on "Santa Claus Wants Some Lovin'."

Other stops on this tour of Christmas In Soulsville come with intriguing backstories. For example, legend maintains that Rufus Thomas co-wrote his funky solo throwdown "I'll Be Your Santa, Baby" -- which sure sounds interested in unwrapping more than presents and stuffing more than stockings -- with an exotic dancer. Soulsville sounds like one funky, swingin' place to celebrate Christmas!