Oh, there’s dust in the air and a glow from the old console turntable as you hear the clicks a new 45 drops down the spindle. The needle sets down, and J.D. McDonald coaxes out the Motown vision of the elusive “Boogaloo Santa Claus.” Suddenly before your very ears, you can see it: Santa boogieing and jiving and doing the popcorn.
That’s just one of the Christmas expanding visions waiting for you on the archive collection of tunes on Strut Records’ In the Christmas Groove. Leave it to the soul-funk label to mine the B-sides of the 60’s and 70’s to find these obscure holiday gems. Sure, tracks like “Black Christmas by Harlem Children’s Chorus which bring you right out of a suburban dream, but sometimes our image of Christmas needs expanding.
Let Funk Machine rock your world on “Soul Santa (Part 1).” Bluesman Jimmy Reed shuffles “Christmas Present Blues.” There’s visions of Martin Luther King, Jr., and John F. Kennedy in the clouds watching down on Christmas in Wild Honey’s “Angels Christmas.” Perhaps a bit better focused are the hallelujahs of “Christmas Morning” by Zebra, although even here the emphasis seems to be on mistletoe and gingerbread. The collection doesn’t really ever find Gospel-influenced tracks that might put the light on Christ. Still, it’ll change up your normal Christmas playlist, and when you need something beyond Holiday Inn and Bing Crosby, here’s another direction to check out.