A decade before "I'll Take You There", the Chicago soul family released this spiritual gem.
Each year, hundreds of Christmas albums are released. Very few rise to the top of that pile, and even fewer transcend it. But that's exactly what The 25th Day of December does. It's a classic album that just happens to be about Christmas. Years before their Stax heyday and a full decade before signature hit "I'll Take You There", Roebuck "Pops" Staples, son Pervis, and daughters Mavis and Yvonne were signed to jazz label Riverside. Only their fifth album overall, The 25th Day of December nonetheless feels wise and assured. The dozen tracks, many traditional spirituals, are rendered seriously and sincerely. Even standards like "Go Tell It on the Mountain" and "Silent Night" are stripped down and laid bare. The unadorned backing, consisting of Roebuck's bluesy guitar along with organ and drums, puts the focus where it should be, on the soulful harmonies and reverent message. The 25th Day of December is not only a great way to put the Christmas season and its music back into perspective, it's also one of the year's most essential reissues in any genre.