If the idea of having both B.B. King and the Dukes of Dixieland in your living room to entertain over Christmas would be a bit of a stretch – but you’d be thrilled at the thought – then have I got a Christmas CD for you! Once again, just like the New Orleans Christmas from Putumayo World Music or indeed the splendid, Mali to Memphis here is a compilation album that you can trust.
The artists unfamiliar to you will become welcome new additions and the remaining established names are excellent choices to elevate the appeal. The liner notes – in English, French and Spanish – are informative and interesting. And as a blues and jazz fan, why not show your family and guests that there is more to Christmas music than the same sad, bad tunes warmed up every year like overcooked Brussels sprouts. Put this one in the background for almost any gathering and you will not be disappointed. Discerning listeners everywhere – give this a spin.
There is a lot of variety here and I especially like the way the tracks have been arranged. B.B. King kicks off with a tune called Christmas Celebration and it’s typical B.B. – very tight, very downhome – and most of all groovin’ right from the get-go. Nothing maudlin here either. B.B.’s simple, heartfelt message: “May Christmas bring you happiness, I want you to have a good time baby, like we did on all the rest” is both sincere and appealing. He doesn’t have opportunity to stretch himself much here of course, but it’s still the best kind of Christmas punch.
If you can believe it – and I couldn’t till I heard it myself – there is a version of Rudolph the Red Nose Reindeer by none other than Ray Charles which is really quite good. This track is surprisingly catchy (who knew!) and you may find yourself humming the newly vamped up chorus with the back up singers for some time afterwards. (Note: I like to add a few little Smokey Robinson-inspired dance moves if I’m quite alone …)
Merry Christmas Baby is performed by The Dukes of Dixieland and features an outstanding Luther Kent on vocals. It’s an old school New Orleans inspired version of this well known Christmas classic and it absolutely shines. The band is enthusiastic as well as being phenomenal at what they do – Bourbon Street jazz. Love that!
Riff Ruffin who was a contemporary of Elmore James comes on board with a blues-saturated classic Xmas Baby complete with a Muddy Waters-esque chorus line and swinging saxophones in the background. Listen closely – Santa is not often associated with this particular kind of cargo … Enjoy.