Many people cringe when they think of Christmas music and rightfully so because most of it’s bad to begin with. Never mind that by the time December 26th rolls around, it will have been completely played into the ground anyway. But on the other hand, the holidays can be a lucrative season for DJs. So if you’ve just booked that high-paying company Christmas party and you’ve been asked to weave a little holiday cheer into your set, don’t turn into the Christmas music Grinch just yet. Here are six albums you can download to guarantee that your holiday party set goes down as smoothly as spiked eggnog. At the very least you’ll improve that annual Christmas iPod mix you’re expected to create as the family DJ.
A Motown Christmas – Various Artists
Back in 1973 Berry Gordy and the brass at Motown compiled the best Christmas songs from their back catalog and put them all on one comp. Whether it’s the Temptations’ swanky take on “Rudolph the Red- Nosed Reindeer” or the Jackson 5 and Diana Ross’ ecstatic collaboration on “Santa Claus is Coming to Town,” this is the perfect album for injecting a little soul into your Christmas DJ set. Other essential tracks include Stevie Wonder’s “That’s What Christmas Means to Me,” Diana Ross’ “My Favorite Things” and Smoky Robinson’s oh-so-smooth take on “Jingle Bells.”
Smoky Robinson – Jingle Bells
Trojan Christmas Box Set – Various Artists
Big up your Christmas, island style with this massive array of Christmas ska, reggae, rock steady and dancehall tracks compiled from the Trojan Records archives. Originally released as a 3-CD set, the Trojan Christmas Box features Christmas songs performed by many of Jamaican music’s true greats. Some of the highlights include Yellowman’s “African Christmas,” the Granville Williams Orchestra’s “Santa Claus Is Ska-ing to Town,” and Toots and the Maytals’ soulful skanker “Happy Christmas.” Didn’t know “ska-ing” was a verb? Well it is at Christmas in Jamaica apparently.
Yellowman – African Christmas
A Charlie Brown Christmas – Vince Guaraldi Trio
With his signature cool jazz piano, a bit of Hammond organ, some double bass and a touch of drums, Vince Guaraldi and his Trio created the album that truly puts the “class” in classic Christmas music. It was originally released as the soundtrack for A Charlie Brown Christmas, the first animated special featuring the Peanuts gang to air in primetime when it debuted back in 1965. Since then the TV special has aired every year and the album has become one of the most popular Christmas albums of all time. It’s not hard to see why when you listen to Guaraldi’s piano driven, cool jazz take on classics like “O Tannenbaum,” “Fur Elise,” and “Greensleeves.” Other essential tracks include “The Little Drum,” “Christmas Time is Here,” and “Christmas is Coming.”
Verve Remixed Christmas – Various Artists
Another of the popular series of Verve Remixed albums, this one features classic Christmas songs performed by the likes of Count Basie, Ella Fitzgerald and Billie Holiday remixed by the likes of the Orb, the Brazilian Girls and Wax Tailor among others. Remixed Christmas is perfect for adding a dash of retro-contemporary spice to your holiday mix. Highlights include the Christian Prommer remix of Shirley Horn’s “Winter Wonderland” and Yesking’s improbable reggae take on Billy Holiday’s “I’ve Got My Love to Keep Me Warm.”
Louis Armstrong – Zat You Santa Claus? (The Heavy Remix)
James Brown’s Funky Christmas – James Brown
If Motown put the soul in Christmas then James Brown brings the funk with this culling together of his best Christmas numbers. The album features at least one track that could be regarded as a genuine classic in “Santa Claus Go Straight to the Ghetto,” in which Brown spikes the punch with a little bit of social commentary by telling Santa to “Go straight to the Ghetto” and “fill every stocking you find.” Funky Christmas is that rare Christmas album that’s so good, you might actually find yourself wanting to hear it in July.
Underground Garage Presents: Christmas a Go-Go
Christmas a Go-Go is a splendid compilation of Christmas garage rock, soul and rockabilly numbers, that was put out by Little Steven’s Underground Garage radio show. This one features all the Christmas rock you could ask for including Keith Richard’s “Run Rudolph Run,” the Ramones’ “Merry Christmas (I Don’t Want to Fight Tonight)” the Kinks’ “Father Christmas,” and Wizzard’s “I Wish It Could Be Christmas Every Day.” Other essential tracks on Christmas a Go-Go include Clarence Carter’s raunchy but funky “Back Door Santa,”Rufus Thomas’ wah-wah driven groover, “I’ll Be Your Santa” and Tina Sugandh’s sitar and tabla-heavy take on “White Christmas.”
Clarence Carter – Back Door Santa