Artists | Songs | Various Artists | Lists | Annuals | Jukebox | About | Home Facebook
  
Support Hip Christmas when you shop at iTunes

Support www.hipchristmas.com! Amazon Shop at Amazon, iTunes, and more...

Merry Christmas Baby (Fuel) Billed under the banner of "Charles Brown and Friends," Fuel 2000 Records' Merry Christmas Baby (2000) is really a compilation of blues and soul recordings made by various artists (including Brown) for the Jewel, Paula, and Ronn family of labels during the 1960's and early 70's. Belying the presence of some blues legends, the album simply isn't that great, as most of these artists were either past their prime (Jimmy Reed, Big Joe Williams) or recutting earlier hits (Charles Brown, Lowell Fulson). But that's not to say Merry Christmas Baby doesn't contain some (pardon the pun) jewels. Brown's update of the title track is a gas, punctuated by funky, wah-wah guitar. And, Fulson's rendition of his classic "Lonesome Christmas" nearly stands up to the 1951 original he waxed for Swing Time Records. Even Louis Jordan's "Santa Claus Santa Claus" - recorded in 1968 when he was 60 years old - packs an impressive a wallop. (By the way, that's an entirely different song than the "Santa Claus Santa Claus" recorded by James Brown the same year - go figure.)

Actually, the album's lineage stretches back to 1985, when Jewel Records compiled an LP also titled Merry Christmas Baby (never reissued on CD). Then, in 1991, the company (this time under their Paula imprint) packaged the same material on a CD with another handful of holiday tracks, releasing it as (yet again) Merry Christmas Baby. This digital edition casts a wider net, picking up a variety of recordings both old and new - mostly obscure and eccentric, some of dubious quality, others quite cool. Most notable are Johnny & Jon's unbelievable "Christmas In Vietnam" (read more) and the super bad, extra funky "Black Christmas" by the mysterious Hot Rock Mays.

[close]

Merry Christmas Baby (Paula)Regardless, all versions of the album include an obscure soul classic: Bobby Powell's "The Bells." It's a stately, yearning ballad, with the obscure Mr. Powell haunted by a persistent ringing in his head (the name of the original single's b-side was actually "Bing Bong"). What's really wacky is that "The Bells" isn't really a Christmas song at all - those are wedding (not Christmas) bells!

By the way, "The Bells" sounds supiciously similar to an even more obscure, earlier holiday platter, the Motivations' lovely "Christmas Spirit" (1970). Perhaps there's a relationship there? We'll probably never know....

In the end, however, either the Fuel or Paula discs will yield rewards for soul freaks and Christmas geeks, though neither is entirely perfect. The Fuel disc is mastered a little better, more thoughtfully (if incompletely) annotated, and easier to find (distributed by Varese Sarabande through Universal). But, it focuses on the earlier, more traditional material (to the exclusion of later standouts like "Black Christmas"), and it includes a mere baker's dozen tracks. The Paula package swells to nearly double that size - 23 tracks, some of them indisputably essential. You be the judge, I bought both....

Consumers Note. Jewel/Paula released a third variation of Merry Christmas Baby in 1996 - same title, new cover, fewer songs - this time under their Ronn imprint. For their part, Fuel also repackaged their Merry Christmas Baby (2005) - same songs, similar cover, but new title (Greatest Christmas Hits). Plus, there's an entirely different series of rhythm & blues Christmas albums called Merry Christmas Baby culled from the catalog of the Swing Time, King, and Hollywood family of labels (read more) - albums which also prominently feature Charles Brown. Confused yet? I sure am. [top of page]

Albums Albums

SongsSongs

  • - Merry Christmas Baby (Paula, 1991)
  • The Bells (Bobby Powell, 1971)
  • Black Christmas (Hot Rock Mays, circa 1986)
  • Christmas Blues (Big Joe Williams, 1963)
  • Christmas Present Blues (Jimmy Reed, 1970)
  • Christmas In Vietnam (Johnny & Jon, 1966)
  • Lonesome Christmas (Lowell Fulson, 1970)
  • Merry Christmas Baby (Charles Brown, 1970)
  • Please Come Home For Christmas (Charles Brown, 1970)
  • Santa Claus Santa Claus (Louis Jordan, 1968)
  • - Merry Christmas Baby (Fuel, 2000)
  • The Bells (Bobby Powell, 1971)
  • Christmas Blues (Big Joe Williams, 1963)
  • Christmas Present Blues (Jimmy Reed, 1970)
  • Lonesome Christmas (Lowell Fulson, 1970)
  • Merry Christmas Baby (Charles Brown, 1970)
  • Please Come Home For Christmas (Charles Brown, 1970)
  • Santa Claus Santa Claus (Louis Jordan, 1968)

Further ListeningFurther Listening

[top of page]

Navigation   Artists   Songs   Various Artists   Lists   Annuals   Jukebox   About   Home

Information   About Us   Feedback   Submissions   Books   Links   Mailbag

Support Me   Amazon   iTunes   Sheet Music Plus

© 1999-2017 Randall Anthony, www.hipchristmas.com and www.randysrodeo.com
5903 Belfast Drive, Austin, Texas 78723 (512) 454-2906 webmaster@hipchristmas.com

FreeFind NetFirms InternetSeer Wimpy Player