James Brown, 'James Brown's Funky Christmas' (1995)
Brown, who died on December 25, 2006, recorded three Christmas-themed albums during his creative peak: 1966's James Brown Sings Christmas Songs, 1968's A Soulful Christmas and 1970's Hey America It's Christmas. The best tracks from each are collected on this fantastic set. The Godfather was re-inventing rock & roll in his own funk-revolutionary image throughout the late Sixties, so it's no surprise that he injected some soul-power into the holly, jolly time of year. There's bent-knee R&B balladry ("Merry Christmas Baby" and "Please Come Home for Christmas"), smokin' groove workouts ("Go Power at Christmas Time," "Soulful Christmas") and shots of gritty social consciousness ("Santa Claus Goes to the Ghetto," "Let's Unite the Whole World at Christmas"). Like Santa himself, Mr. Dynamite has something in his bottomless gift bag for every girl and boy the world over: On the blazing title track from 1970's Hey America It's Christmas, he implores, "White or black, blue or green/ Even a man I've never seen/Let's get together!"