So I fell behind a few days on this countdown but since this is vanity project and I am my own boss so can play catch up today on this countdown of Holiday jams. Also, it is the Solstice, so Happy Solstice y'all. With no further ado, here is the next 3 songs in my countdown.
Tall Black Guy is the production moniker of Detroit-born, DC-based musician Terrel Wallace. Throughout the 2000s, Wallace has honed his beat craft, blending clever samples with original instrumentation. Marvin Gaye, Chaka Khan, Aretha Franklin, Al Green, and Michael Jackson are just a few of the artists TBG has reinterpreted to stunning effect. Clearly a graduate of the Dilla school, his reinventions of familiar material have earned him respectful recognition in hip-hop and beat circles.
He takes on Donny Hathaway's "It's Christmas" with a beautiful smoothed out hip hop edit. Originally released in in 2014, this jam has been a staple in my holiday playlist since first listen. I highly suggest you check all the work of Tall Black Guy, it's really good!
I've been a fan of August Darnell's since I first heard his work with Dr. Buzzard's Original Savannah Band ("Cherchez La Femme"...such a great song!), which morphed into Kid Creole & the Coconuts. They put out a series of amazing albums that combined Caribbean rhythms with R&B, rock and anything else Darnell (aka The Kid) could think of. This song was originally titled "Winter on Riverside Drive" (first recorded by Gichy Dan who is Jehovah Witness and he refused to use the word "Christmas"), but Darnell later remixed it and renamed it "Christmas on Riverside Drive."
Basically this song is Christmas in NYC in 1981 inside a snowglobe inside my head.
Darnell waxes nostalgic for both subway rides and sleigh rides. That tireless signifier of sleigh bells is the only holiday sound present, but the melody and groove have proven hooky and durable enough to burrow their way into my memory in a way that always triggers visions of this time of year.
Disco meets comedy! Or rather, they meet again. The great part about disco was that you could overlay those long sections of dance beats with just about anything: sound effects (Meco’s “Star Wars Theme/Cantina Band“), lusty monologues (every Barry White record), or even humorous schtick. A year before “Disco Christmas,” Rick Dees pioneered the disco comedy record with “Disco Duck,” which featured an amorous canard squawking over some really tasty drum breakdowns.
In 1977, the Universal Robot Band added Christmas to the mix and came up with a genuinely funny holiday dance number. Like most disco records it features a bright, cheerful chorus section, here introducing the shiny, new concept of a mirror-ball holiday: “this year we’ll do it up right.”
But the real draw is the witty spoken dialogue between Santa and Rudolph, his right-hand reindeer, as they attempt to “add a little soul to this white Christmas.” No longer a Rankin-Bass puppet, the red-nosed deer enthuses, “I can dig it, boss!” Like most Americans, neither Nick nor Rudy are too clear on the exact dance moves required in disco-dancing, but Santa wants to “try and work it out in these new platform boots.” The comedy gets a little broad—“Rudolph, you alright… slap me five. Not in my eye, fool!” — but it’s still a funnier record than “Disco Duck.” (Or am I damning it with faint praise?)