Booker T. & the MG’s “In the Christmas Spirit”

In The Christmas Spirit

I love mining the cracks and depths of the rock era, hunting down lost or obscure gems, but I’m not about to put some rare junk or novelty crap on my Christmas mix. The holidays are a time for family entertainment and this jock aims to please the crowd. Mostly, I’m looking for classic tracks with the elusive “christmas sound,” that special magic that separates rushed covers of holiday standards from the true “christmas canon.”

Year after year, Booker T.’s In The Christmas Spirit is where it’s at. Famous as the legendary house band at Stax, the MG’s defined the sound of southern soul backing records for the likes of Sam & Dave, Wilson Pickett, and Otis Redding. Even likely the men behind some of the artists on Atlantic’s classic Soul Christmas, cutting classic grooves like Otis’s “Merry Christmas Baby.”

This collection of souled-up instrumentals hits the pocket for me, and it’s versatile as a party record or lite background music. Easily essential this time of year.

Other perfect holiday records to recommend include Phil Spector’s A Christmas Gift For You, The Beach Boys Christmas Album, the original Soul Christmas, and Vince Guaraldi’s A Charlie Brown Christmas.

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“Jingle Bells”

:) Vinyl Reissue | 2009 | Sundazed | buy at sundazed ]

Q. What records are on your Christmas mix?

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  • What a great one!!! Also don’t forget Willie Colon’s ” Asalto Navideño” (Christmas Assault) on that list!
    Just posted it:
    Merry Christmas and Many Thanks!!

  • Boney M. is firmly entrenched in my Christmas consciousness (“Christmas Album,” 1981). Bobby Farrell’s bass vocal bridge on “Mary’s Boy Child” is sublime. Given its inaugural appearance this year, I’m a little surprised that Dylan’s “Christmas in the Heart” wasn’t mentioned. I guess what needs to be said is that all holiday records are untouchable for 360 days of the year (and only worth reading/writing/thinking about on/around the day). Happy now.

  • Len Liechti

    Oh, my, I just heard Dylan’s Christmas album for the first time. My brother-in-law – a Zimmerman nut through and through – bought it for my elder daughter, I think as a jolly Christmas jape. Sounds like Tom Waits with terminal laryngitis, accompanied by Pinky and Perky on backing vocals (google them, Stateside readers) plus most of the Mitch Miller Band. Absolutely out-bloody-rageous. On the other hand I’ve also just heard for the first time what must be one of the best Christmas records ever, Kay Starr’s “(Everybody’s Waiting For) The Man With The Bag” from nineteen-fifty-something. Having lived through sixty years of Christmas records I have to say those from before the rock’n’roll era are definitely the best.

  • Len Liechti

    Further to Brendan’s question:
    – The Pretenders, “2000 Miles”. What a pretty guitar riff.
    – The Pogues with Kirsty McColl, “Fairy Tale Of New York”. Speaks for itself.
    – Chris De Burgh, “A Spaceman Came Travelling”. The only real gem from an otherwise worthless singer.
    – Jona Lewie, “Stop The Cavalry”. Corny as hell, but somehow irresistable year after year.
    – Greg Lake, “I Believe In Father Christmas”. For once, bombast is beautiful.
    – John Lennon, “Happy Christmas (War Is Over)”. One day it just might be.
    That’s about it. Just about all other Christmas music since rock’n’roll is sh*t. Bah, Humbug!

  • Both of the Ramsey Lewis Trio’s instrumental Christmas albums have been essential listening for me ever since I first heard them on my parents’ turntable. Especially recommended since you like Booker T. and Vince Guaraldi.

  • Richard J. Carflton

    I’m trying to locate the album Booker T cut with a number of the Italian producers tunes with Clint Eastwood. This would have been 1968 when the album cam to Nam. A super album which the boys ripped off because of the class Booker T displayed cutting this album

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