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 Overall, though, In the Christmas Groove functions best as a historical document with some great sampling material.
// Notes from the Road
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