Ready or not, the holiday season is in full swing, and with it comes music that can bring on cheer and good tidings — or make you long for a pair of permanent earmuffs. Opinions on holiday tunes vary widely within the music enthusiast community, but what if I told you the perfect holiday album does exist? Enter: Sharon Jones & The Dap Kings’ “It’s A Holiday Soul Party.”
A powerhouse soul and funk ensemble that gained widespread acclaim for reviving classic R&B sounds, Sharon Jones & The Dap Kings introduced their contemporary take on soul music in 2002 and continued their unwavering dedication to keeping the spirit of classic R&B alive until Jones’ tragic passing in late 2016.
The release of the group’s holiday album in 2015 caught the ear of listeners and critics alike, prompting an incredibly festive “Tiny Desk” performance and a breath of fresh air to the old stale classics of yore.
I’m a sucker for a knock-out opening number. “It’s a Holiday Soul Party” does not disappoint with a tune celebrating the Festival of Lights, “8 Days (of Hannukah).” If you listen closely during the full band count-off, I swear you can hear the thawing of the Grinch’s cold, coal heart.
Classics like “White Christmas,” “Silent Night” and “Silver Bells” get a full rework in style and presentation, while still providing the perfect opportunity for a sing-along. And a personal favorite is “Funky Little Drummer Boy,” with its loop-ready drum brakes between each verse and crooning background vocals.
Even the sourest Scrooge can’t deny the yuletide pull from the swing and swagger of the Dap King’s groove. Jones’s impressive vocal lines feel perfectly executed and yet still improvised. It is pure seasonal magic to hear her voice blend with the band on these 11 tracks. My only complaint is that the tunes are too short, with most coming in at under 4 minutes.
So, dip yourself in eggnog, roll in some tinsel, and crank up the volume. It’s time to be less Skut Farkus and more Buddy the Elf for these final days of 2023.
*Pairs well with anything shiny, Charles Mingus’s eggnog recipe, and mistletoe.