When I was but a wee dance music fan, I bought a lot of vinyl.
I bought records by artists I had never heard of because their sleeves were cool. I bought entire $12 imports for one track that may or may not have been what my favorite DJ played at the club the night before. (Shazam would have saved me some cash.) I bought everything on labels like Bedrock and Hooj Choons and Twisted. I bought double-packs for just one of the remixes. It was exciting to flip through a record store bin, or scroll through a private collection online, or drop the needle on a white label, not knowing what I’d discover.
It was during this manic collecting phase that I found The Salsoul Orchestra’s “Christmas Jollies”; a yellowing copy of the 1976 original with that delicious old record smell and a sassy lady in a Santa hat on its cover. The album gets its first digital release ever this year, thanks to a partnership between Ultra Music and Verse Music Group. It’s out tomorrow (Nov. 12), but check out the stream below today.
I did not know then that this was the seminal disco label’s best-selling release of all-time. (This was the label of First Choice, “Let No Man Put Asunder,” and Loleatta Holloway’s eternal “Love Sensation,” after all.) But after at least 10 Christmases digging it out of the attic for a Yuletide twirl, I understand why.
Holiday music is so generalized. It robs you of all your taste. I love Kelly Clarkson and Michael Buble and all the other incredible vocalists who have made a meal out of the season. Mariah; new classic! Madonna; lowbrow/brilliant! But those are all pop interpretations of the holiday vibe; the fact that I loved disco and house music did not have a place on my December turntable.
So to hear a slapped-bass “Little Drummer Boy,” “God Rest Yet Merry Gentlemen” with a flute solo, and a deeply funky “Deck The Halls” – all with the orchestra’s grand strings and brass - was somehow special, subversive, and very me. This was how I wanted to hear Christmas music! And it still is.