R&B, Blues, Soul & Stax

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

Merry Staxmas

12 DEC 08 DAVID NATHAN

Back in the day, the folks at Stax often commemorated the Christmas season with a touch of blues, soul and funk. The 2007 Christmas In Soulsville compilation is an exceptional example of the musical magic that emanated from the studio on McLemore Avenue in Memphis during the holidays.

It's hard to pick highlights for this is one of the best Yule-related CDs you can find. Whether it's Albert King's brilliantly bluesy "Christmas Comes But Once A Year" or Isaac Hayes' melancholic original "Winter Snow," the Stax folks deliver a holiday mix that is both celebratory and aurally pleasing.

It's impossible not to smile when hearing singer/songwriter Mack Ric deliver the wry "Santa Claus Wants Some Lovin'" or to get the holiday spirit through Booker T. & The MGs' finger-snappin' "Winter Wonderland." Hitmakers like The Staple Singers ("Who Took The Merry Out Of Christmas?") and The Emotions (featured on two cuts, the Pop Staples-penned "Black Christmas" and the poignant "What Do The Lonely Do At Christmas?") offer solid contributions as do the ever-emotive Rance Allen Group with their take on "White Christmas" and The Temprees with their decidedly different take on Mel Torme's "The Christmas Song."

Otis Redding kicks it all off with "Merry Christmas, Baby" and appropriately, the duo who were responsible for jump-starting the Stax label back in 1960 -- father and daughter Rufus and Carla Thomas -- close the seasonal proceedings with their original "That Makes Christmas Day."