Flashback Friday: Soul Christmas

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The original Soul Christmas album cover.

First of all: I would like to wish everyone a very Merry Christmas! The big day has finally arrived…and yes, you made it! Hope it has been a good day so far and will continue to be as the hours of Christmas Day dwindle away until the same time next year.

For this week’s Flashback Friday post, I’m going back to my childhood. One of my earliest childhood memories of Christmas music is of the album Soul Christmas, a various artist project by some of the soul music greats of the late ’60s.  This album had some famous names: Otis Redding, Booker T. & The MG’s, Solomon Burke, Carla Thomas, Joe Tex, Clarence Carter (whose “Back Door Santa” provides the musical hook for Run-DMC’s “Christmas In Hollis”) and King Curtis, to name a few. I originally heard this on an 8-track tape that my mother somehow purchased (not sure where she got it, but that album cover was nowhere to be found on the tape). This original album contained twelve soul-soaked Christmas classics and originals, and was always played around my house during the season. The original tracklisting can be found here.

As the years went on, and 8-track tapes gave way to cassettes and eventually CDs, I went searching for this Soul Christmas album for my own copy. The 8-track tape had long since disappeared (or more likely wore out from constant use), and I wanted to hear the Christmas songs that I grew up with. Well, I was lucky enough to find a copy of the album on CD, but it was different than the original. Eleven of the original twelve tracks were included (with one notable exception), but several additions were made. For example, Donny Hathaway’s classic version of his “This Christmas” was added, as well as two tracks from Luther Vandross (billed as Luther, the name of the group he fronted) from his time at Atlantic Records (“At Christmas Time and May Christmas Bring You Happiness”). A remix of the latter song is also added, as well as the definitive doo-wop version of “White Christmas” by Clyde McPhatter and the Drifters, along with additional songs by Margie Joseph, The Impressions, a duet by Redding and Thomas, and a version of “Every Day Will Be Like A Holiday” by The Sweet Inspirations, replacing the William Bell version from the original album. That version of the album is available for purchase (here’s the link to Amazon.com).

Perusing Spotify to find either version of the album turned up yet another incarnation of Soul Christmas. This one includes the eleven of the original twelve tracks also, but this time Joe Tex’s “I’ll Make Every Day Christmas (For My Woman)” is omitted; it is replaced by Booker T. & The MG’s “Santa Claus Is Coming To Town.” William Bell’s original “Every Day Will Be Like A Holiday” returns, but most of the added songs from the CD version disappear, except for Hathaway’s song and the Vandross remix of “May Christmas Bring You Happiness.” Soul Christmas  Version 3 is available for streaming on the service here:

Whichever version is better doesn’t really matter, but for a musically soulful Christmas, you can’t really go wrong with either choice. Whatever your musical preference, may you have a wonderful Christmas full of joy, good times, remembrance of memories past and creation of memories to come.

6 Replies to “Flashback Friday: Soul Christmas”

  1. Ok – now you know I am not a big Christmas person – but I was saying to my husband over the holidays that “Back Door Santa” is the best Christmas song ever. SO funny that you mention it here. I saw Clarence Carter with B.B. King many years ago back when I lived in the DC area. Thanks for bringing me back to some awesome music!!!!!!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks Maria! Clarence Carter was a hilarious R&B storyteller. I know Strokin’ was a big hit with folks years ago, but he was a very good soul singer and songwriter way back.

      Like

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