Published Oct 30, 2015The holiday album: occasionally classic; more often, a cash-in. As an audience, we mostly tolerate, rather than love, holiday albums. They demarcate a cozy time of year before the bitter cold snap sets in and crushes our collective soul.
Sharon Jones & The Dap-Kings' It's A Holiday Soul Party sounds exactly how you would expect it to. It's that quintessential Daptone tape hiss-funk and Jones's powerhouse performances applied to (mostly) Christmas standards. And yet, that classic sound meeting classic material somehow feels modern. It's A Holiday Soul Party sounds fresh.
High points of the collection include the opening "8 Days (Of Hannukah," with its funky horn loop, an oddly sensual interpretation of "Silent Night" and the neck-nodding sousaphone growl of "God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen" (really!). Also notable is "Big Bulbs," featuring Saun & Starr, a tongue-in-cheek, vocal-gymnastics celebration of string lighting over simple, jaunty guitar and sleigh bells rhythm. There are a few re-gifted songs here, such as 2014's fantastic "Just Another Christmas Song" and 2009's "Ain't No Chimneys In The Projects," about socioeconomic disparities and the practicality of central heating systems, but they're welcome additions.
Despite the album's mostly consistent vibe, though, some cuts apply the Daptone formula to less distinguishable effect, as on "Silver Bells" and the cleverly named but otherwise unremarkable "Funky Little Drummer Boy."
So, is It's A Holiday Soul Party so good that it will get year round rotation? No. Like eggnog, it's excellent in December but probably a little nauseating come January. Still, holidays need soundtracks that aren't stale, and you could certainly do worse than having Sharon Jones' harmonies greeting your coevals, elders and offspring. More importantly, It's A Holiday Soul Party will provide that desperately needed bit of holiday cheer when it sneaks out of a retail PA system. 'Tis the season. (Daptone)