A year ago tonight, we were rather funked up. On a cold Wisconsin night, we saw Sharon Jones and the Dap-Kings scorching the stage at the Barrymore Theatre in our old neighborhood in Madison.
The next night, we put three funked-up tunes under the tree. It turned out to be the most popular thing we did in last year’s series. It went like this:
Three years ago, funk legend Bootsy Collins released a Christmas record that clearly bears his stamp, yet one that has surprisingly tender moments. It’s a remarkable re-imagining of some familiar songs, a mash that’ll be familiar to Christmas music fans and to P-Funk fans.
This earnestly spoken sample is the first thing you hear on the record:
“I’m sure there’s going to be more than one unpleasant surprise before we’re done.”
You can just imagine Bootsy standing there, his bass ready to go, with a wide smile on his face as he dives in. That said, why don’t we dive in?
“Merry Christmas Baby” — Definitely not Charles Brown’s version. It’s funked up, as you would imagine. Yeah, that’s Bootsy on the guitars and the Space Bass. The Nasty Natti Horns pump out a big backing track and there’s some fine Hammond organ by Morris Mingo.
“Jingle Belz (AKA Jingle Bells)” — You’ve heard this a million times. You’ve never heard it like this. The spoken lead-in — kids being asked “whattaya want for Christmas?” — and Boot-A-Claus’ laid-back vocals set the tone for this romp, which mashes elements of “We Wish You a Merry Christmas” and“Joy to the World” in the last minute. Fred Wesley’s trombone is the backbone for the whole thing.
“Silent Night” — Backed by some elegant keyboards, Bootsy shares a warm, real memory of Christmas as a child in the first 1:30. Then it gives way to “Silent Night” as a slow funk jam with some sizzling vocals by Candis Cheatham. The pace picks up between verses, with more spirited jamming. You’ve never heard this like this, either.
All from “Christmas Is 4 Ever,” Bootsy Collins, 2006. (I thought about changing out the songs from last year, but if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.)
In “Silent Night,” Bootsy remembers growing up in Cincinnati as a boy who loved Christmas, then fell in with “the wrong crowd,” which teased him:
“‘Aw, they ain’t no Santa.’ Then they took it a step further and said ‘Well, how is he gonna get in your house, and you livin’ in the ghetto with no fireplace? What kinda chimney is he gonna come down?’ I said, ‘Hmmmm.’ (Must be comin’ through the window.)”
Sharon Jones grew up in Brooklyn, wondering the same thing. On her charming new Christmas soul single, she asks just how Santa put her toys under the tree when there …
“Ain’t No Chimneys In The Projects,” Sharon Jones and the Dap-Kings, from the 7-inch single Daptone DAP-1048, 2009. It’s due out Tuesday.
Those of us on Daptone’s mailing list got the tune today as a little gift. Give it a listen, then go get your own.