Various Artists

Funky Christmas

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AllMusic Review by

The "truth in advertising" squad should have had a talk with the folks at Cotillion Records before Funky Christmas was released in 1976 -- this album may be funky in fits and starts, but there's more midtempo R&B, proto-disco, and smooth jazz on this seasonal collection than anything that approximates getting on the good foot, and not only isn't Funky Christmas very funky, it isn't all that exciting, either. The album is best remembered today for featuring two numbers from Luther, the vocal group led by Luther Vandross before he went solo and became a platinum-selling lover man in the '80s; "May Christmas Bring You Happiness" and "At Christmas Time" are easily the most memorable tracks here, in part because they're solid originals and Vandross and his vocal partners bring their all to the performances, with Luther sounding very comfortable with the seasonal sentiments. Margie Joseph comes in second place, sounding fine on two romance-during-the-holidays numbers, "Christmas Gift" and "Feeling Like Christmas," in which she soundly outclasses the material. The Impressions, on the other hand, struggle desperately to sound cute on "I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus" and fail at every turn, though their take on "Silent Night" isn't so bad. John Edwards (who would later join the Spinners) turns "White Christmas" into a credible slow jam, boosted by some Memphis-style production from David Porter, but his version of "The Christmas Song" misses the mark. Saxman Lou Donaldson sounds just a little too laid-back on his cover of "What Are You Doing New Year's Eve," while his mellow tone just wasn't made for the disco-fied arrangement of "Jingle Bells." And Willis Jackson's bigger, more lusty sax style fares better on a slinky "I'll Be Home for Christmas," but the disco rhythms of "Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas" push him faster than he was meant to go. The Luther and Margie Joseph tracks are solid, but otherwise, Funky Christmas is a frustratingly hit-and-miss set of R&B Christmas tunes that hasn't worn well with time.

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