This James Brown article was written by Adam Stevenson, a GIGsoup contributor
As the season of good cheer fast approaches, it’s imperative to seek out and order your Christmas albums and playlists. And no list would be complete without the Godfather of soul included. During the height of the 1960s’ live fast/die young, Rolling Stone rock ‘n’ roll scene, James Brown was still delivering his own soul enthused rock that showed him as an exceptional funk artist. Between 1966 -1970, Mr. Dynamite used his immense talent to produce three Christmas themed albums; James Brown Sings Christmas Songs (1966), A Soulful Christmas (1968) and Hey America It’s Christmas (1970).
A Soulful Christmas, amazingly Brown’s 26th studio album, still stands out today as one of the best seasonal albums ever released. It’s a master class of sheer funk elegance that lights the flame to your Christmas pud and should be considered a staple for the holly jolly season.
Kicking off is the shoulder twisting slow grit of “Santa Claus Go Straight To The Ghetto”. He implores for Christmas to reach out to the disadvantaged kids that live on the wrong side of the tracks, citing, “Leave a toy for Johnny, leave a doll for Mary, leave something pretty for Donnie and don’t forget about Gary” to a perfectly assembled brass outfit – liking himself and his past to that of the children before a jazzed up saxophone chimes in with a warped rendition of Jingle Bells.
The high pitched yelps and hard exhaled stops you can only associate with the artist are rife in “Soulful Christmas” and this smoky, groove filled track is everything you need to bring on the Christmas joy. The ticking style jazz drums and the twinkling of the guitars surround the energetic powerhouse that is The Godfather’s voice. He is mesmerising as he aims this track at his fans, for supporting him through record sales and attendances at his shows, even gifting you with a message of good tidings – “James Brown loves ya”.
The real show piece of the album is the earnest “Let’s Unite the Whole World At Christmas”. It’s as delicate and classy as a thirty year old whisky, it’s the heartfelt Christmas wish of a man who wants everyone to have everything they need and for love to win out over the holidays. The bells toll before we are treated to smooth piano and a cascading brass accompaniment. It is by far one of the most underrated and underplayed Christmas songs.
A Soulful Christmas delivers everything you could need at this time of year, and it’s that one album that sets itself apart from the rest. It packs more treats than the bottom of Santa’s bag but James delivers them with charisma and funk.