With a rousing 1 … 2 … 3 … 4 … 5 … 6 … 7 … 8!, Sharon Jones and The Dap Kings live up to their self-titled mission to start a Holiday Soul Party.
Kicking off with “8 Days of Hannukah” which brings a bluesy chilled vibe to the Jewish holiday that suggests a lazy hazy ’60s vibe, one of the most talented soul singers alive today sets out to reinvent the holiday season itself with new songs and takes on established much-loved tunes that remind it’s possible to create a festive air and still inject some innovation and fun into a well-trod genre.
There’s nothing wrong of course with channelling Bing Crosby and Frank Sinatra at every turn, but there’s something decidedly enlivening about an artist tackling not just a fresh musical approach to holiday music but also themes which don’t usually crop up on seasonal albums such as on “Ain’t No Chimneys in the Projects”.
Throughout the song, a young King wonders how Santa can possibly deliver her gifts if there isn’t a chimney in sight – her mother’s answer will delight you with its imaginative, witty flair, as will its reminder that nothing can stop goodwill and cheer and its chilled, jazz club-air.
Two other original songs “Just Another Song” and “Big Bulbs” bring an upbeat joyfulness to proceedings, a pleasing mix of witty commentary on the season and just plain musical playfulness that evokes the joy of Christmas with an infectious enthusiasm that palpably real rather than manufactured as is often the case on cookie-cutter albums of the genre.
King ability to turn the standards gloriously on their head to inviting effect is proven again and again.
“White Christmas” becomes a dancefloor-filler that bristles with all all kinds of eggnog-fuelled energy while “Silent Night” is gifted a seductive late night feel that works brilliantly well.
“God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen”, a song often overlooked these days, is reborn as a trumpeted instrumental while “Silver Bells” comes into its own as a jaunty, soul-infused upbeat number that makes the joyous lyrics pop like never before.
“Little Drummer Boy” is also given a transformative does of funk that will have wishing you could groove with him more than once a year.
Frankly, with arrangements this groove-laden, you’ll be wishing by the end of this thoroughly unique album of holiday music that you could hold onto the season for far longer than is the usually the case.
In fact, there’s so much fun, joy and spirit in this album that you’ll be tempted to play it all year long, keeping what is one of the best musical parties to come along in years going deservedly on and on.