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Various Artists

In the Christmas Groove

(Strut; US: 29 Sep 2009; UK: 23 Nov 2009)

A Funky Blue Christmas

From the first chicken-scratch guitar riff on Jimmy Reed’s “Christmas Present Blues”, In the Christmas Groove is plenty funky. Culling rare groove from the ‘60s and ‘70s, the dozen-track collection also covers percussion-heavy big-band funk, disco, and soul. Beyond the grooves, though, lies the subtext of the social struggles and injustices of the time. “Soul Santa” re-imagines St. Nick as a black but all-accepting “soul brother”. The Harlem Children’s Chorus’ angelic, prepubescent voices sing about a “Black Christmas” in the ghetto and dream of peace, while the Captain Elmo McKenzie and the Roosters’ “Home On Christmas Day” is the Velvet Underground doing Christmas, hazy and melancholic.


Saddest of all, though, is Wild Honey’s “Angel’s Christmas”, an earnest, straight-up lament for MLK, JFK, and RFK. A couple of tracks, such as the Harvey Averne Barrio Band’s “Let’s Get It Together This Christmas”, produce some genuinely good vibes. Overall, though, In the Christmas Groove functions best as a historical document with some great sampling material.

Rating:

John Bergstrom has been writing various reviews and features for PopMatters since 2004. He has been a music fanatic at least since he and a couple friends put together The Rock Group Dictionary in third grade (although he now admits that giving Pat Benatar the title of "first good female rocker" was probably a mistake). He has done freelance writing for Trouser Pressonline, Milwaukee's Shepherd Express, and the late Milk magazine and website. He currently resides in Madison, Wisconsin with his wife and two kids, both of whom are very good dancers.


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