I’ll square with you: I’m a big fan of Christmas, and I’m a big fan of Sharon Jones & The Dap-Kings. Jones is an intensely powerful, charismatic singer, and the Dap-Kings are a terrific band. It’s a Holiday Soul Party is pretty much everything you’d expect a Christmas album from them to be, and, for that reason, it is brilliant.
The group’s ‘Ain’t No Chimneys in the Projects’ has been floating around a while now, a gorgeous recollection of youth and the kind of questions one would reasonably ask at a tender age, drenched in strings and boasting a cute little sax interpolation of ‘Jingle Bells’. “When I was a child I used to wonder how Santa put my toys under the tree / I said, ‘Mama, can you tell me how this can be, when there ain’t no chimneys in the projects?’” sings Jones, kicking off the song. The opening ‘8 Days of Hanukkah’ is similarly fantastic, a slinky ode to the Festival of Lights that revolves around a count through the days of celebration.
Highlights abound. ‘Silent Night’ features a stunning vocal turn from Jones, the song rendered a soulful ballad; ‘Big Bulbs’ is irresistible Christmas silliness, multi-tracked vocals and darting brass adorned in twinkling bells; on ‘Please Come Home for Christmas’ the group are bluesy, melancholy and assured as ever; ‘Funky Little Drummer Boy’, I think, needs little explanation.
Drummer Homer Steinweiss contributes ‘Just Another Christmas Song’, a consideration of the “same old song” that seems inescapable during the Yuletide season, of the very same kind that the group reimagine here. It posits a kind of weary affection, even ending on a bunch of kids wishing you a Merry Christmas. ‘God Rest Ye Merry Gents’ closes the album, a swingin’ instrumental in which the brass section take centre-stage.
Like I said, I’m a big fan of Christmas. Rampant commercialism and horrendous tackiness aside, it’s a chance to come together and to reflect. To give, and to love. (I know, I know… But it is.) There’s nothing tacky or horrendous or artificial about It’s a Holiday Soul Party at all; it’s simply the sound of a band who understand all of these things, and have made a holiday soul party of an album in order to celebrate them.
8James Skinner's Score