Tag Archives: Bootsy Collins

The missing Christmas hits

Fascinating to read in the Milwaukee paper the other day that no Christmas song has been a hit since Mariah Carey’s “All I Want For Christmas” in 1994.

My pal JB over at The Hits Just Keep On Comin’ also took note of that story, which prompted him to ponder the state of Christmas radio then and now.

All that said, there certainly are some Christmas songs that should have hit the charts in the last 17 years. Here are some of them.

“Who Needs Mistletoe,” Julie Roberts, from “Who Needs Mistletoe,” 2011. A country song every bit as filthy as Clarence Carter’s great “Back Door Santa.”

“Oi To The World,” Severe, from the wonderful Punk Rock Advent Calendar, 2009. Well, it’s reverent as far as UK punks go.

“We Three Kings,” Blondie, a 2009 holiday release. Always fun to find Debbie Harry under the tree. Always fun to hear Blondie’s classic sound.

“Merry Christmas Baby,” Melissa Etheridge, from “A New Thought For Christmas,” 2008. Blistering vocals and blistering blues guitar. Move over, fellas.

“Silent Night,” the Blackhearts and special guests, from “A Blackheart Christmas,” 2008. Some sound bites from that year’s presidential race make it a bit of a time capsule. It once had a bit of a valedictory feel. Now it has the feel of opportunities lost.

“Silent Night,” Bootsy Collins, from “Christmas Is 4 Ever,” 2006. A sweet mashup of reverent narration, funk, R&B and gospel.

“Winter (Basse Dance),” Blackmore’s Night, from “Winter Carols,” 2006. It’s out of print but is available digitally. If you can get past that Ritchie Blackmore is no longer rocking out as he did in Deep Purple and Rainbow and not cede all the elegant guitar work to Trans-Siberian Orchestra, you might dig this instrumental.

“Wonderful Dream (Holidays Are Coming),” Melanie Thornton, from “Memories,” 2003. It’s an import that has gone out of print. This tune was used in a Coca-Cola ad after the R&B singer’s death 10 years ago, but its back story transcends marketing.

“It’s Christmas And I Miss You,” .38 Special, from “A Wild-Eyed Christmas Night,” 2001. It’s out of print but is available digitally. A gentle ballad reflecting the loneliness the season can bring. It’s co-written by guitarist Don Barnes and our friend Jim Peterik.

“Little Drummer Boy,” the Dandy Warhols, from “Fruitcake,” 1997, a Capitol Records promo EP. It’s out of print. In which the Little Drummer Boy takes a psychedelic trip.

“Santa Claus Is Comin’ (In A Boogie Woogie Choo Choo Train),” the Tractors, from “Have Yourself A Tractors Christmas,” 1995. It’s out of print but is available digitally. This fine bit of country swing actually was a modest hit on country radio in in 1995 and again in 1998. After all, it’s just their 1994 hit “Baby Likes To Rock It” retooled with new lyrics for Christmas.

“Soul Christmas,” Graham Parker and Nona Hendryx, from “Christmas Cracker,” 1994. If there were any justice, this scorcher would have been the hit from 17 years ago.

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Filed under December 2011, Sounds

Three under the tree, Vol. 33

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.

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Filed under December 2009, Sounds

Three under the tree, Day 8

bootsycdsleeve2

Yesterday, we found Boots under the tree.

Today, we find Bootsy under the tree.

Two 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?

bootsyxmas4evercd

“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 in 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’d already planned to go from Boots to Bootsy today, but there was no doubt about it after we saw Sharon Jones and the Dap-Kings and the Menahan Street Band with Charles Bradley last night. Christmas came early. One can never have enough funk in their stocking.

3 Comments

Filed under Christmas music, December 2008, Sounds