It’s Christmas time again, which means time for Christmas music. For the next twelve-or-so days, songs of holiday cheer will rule the airwaves. But if you’re anything like me, you’re getting a little weary of your department store’s inexplicable fascination with Michael Bublé. You might be asking: where is the soul? Well, here’s the Intrinsics Christmas playlist—from Detroit to Memphis, soulful Christmas songs you can turn to when you’ve had enough Bing Crosby. (No offense, Bing).
William Bell Every Day Will Be Like A Holiday
From the opening tremolo-saturated guitar, you know you’re in for something good. The three-part harmony is killer, and nothing beats the Memphis horns playing that “Jingle-Bells” line after the key change. A holiday classic.
Charles Brown Please Come Home for Christmas
Famously covered by Jon Bon Jovi, the original “Please Come Home for Christmas” by Charles Brown shows off the signature grit of Cincinnati’s King Records, but mixed with a lush, reverb-y sweetness on the bells and piano.
James Brown Soulful Christmas
“I got everything I need around my soulful Christmas tree.” The birth of Jesus just wouldn’t feel right without a Maceo Parker solo on it, am I right?The bass on this record is mixed perfectly, and the horn stabs are sharp, yet soulful. It’s the classic James Brown fomula for a great funk record, and the lyrics are about Christmas…sort of.
Otis Redding and Carla Thomas New Year’s Resolution
Steve Cropper’s classic bluesy guitar tone and Booker T.’s organ fill out the character of this tune, but the barely-behind-the-beat horn lines are are where the song comes to life. Otis and Carla’s phrasing in the harmony is sloppy—but perfect in its imperfection.
Clarence Carter Back Door Santa
If I’ve said it once I’ve said it a thousand times: there are only two genres of music that can consistently put out a great cheating song. Country and Soul. If you’ll be stealing some love this Christmas, then “Back Door Santa” is the track for you. (Hint: back door Santa is really nothing like the actual Santa). Also if this sounds familiar, it might be because Run-DMC sampled it for “Christmas in Hollis.”
That’s it for us. Of course honorable mentions go to “Merry Christmas Baby,” by Otis Redding, “That’s What Christmas Means to Me” by Stevie Wonder, and that one Mariah Carey song that we all pretend we hate but we all secretly know is a jam. But you knew about those already. Merry Christmas!