Download: Zebra's 'Christmas Morning' from 'In the Christmas Groove'
Already exhausted by Christmas cheer? Does the thought of braving mall parking lots wreck your nerves to the point of popping valium? How many times have you heard Bing Crosby bray about a white Christmas before the 10th of December? Whether you're psychologically ruined by seasonal charm offensives, or if you just enjoy rare funk and soul from the 1970s, you'll probably love Strut Records' "In the Christmas Groove."
Over the last decade-plus, the British imprint has dedicated itself to excavating diamond clusters of rarely heard Afro-beat, calypso and funk. It has coaxed Ethiopian jazz legend Mulatu Astatke to make an album with the Heliocentrics. The imprint even released an album from the long-dormant Kid Creole and the Coconuts. For this, Strut deserves some sort of medal, or at least free mistletoe.
"In the Christmas Groove" is an antidote. It's for those exhausted by the same anesthetized canon of Christmas cuts. Largely culled from obscure 45 B-sides, most of the songs collected were ad hoc affairs. Loose and funky licks of inspiration intended to be heard by small regional clientele largely spread out through the South and Eastern seaboard. But there's everything from Elmo McKenzie's "Home on Christmas Day," released on the Bardados label, Trex, to blues fiend Jimmy Reed. There's the Harlem Children's Chorus and even the Black on White Affair's cover of "Auld Lang Syne"
In honor of its imminent re-release, Pop & Hiss is offering Zebra's "Christmas Morning." Admittedly, it's a few weeks before Christmas, but if you're feeling festive but can't stand the usual saccharine anthems, this should solve your problems. Reedited by Sean Bonniwell, "Christmas Morning" sounds like the Zombies and the Kinks jamming with the Lafayette Afro-Rock band. It is ferocious, funky, and sounds even better than not having to visit your in-laws for Christmas. Best heard with chocolate milk and Pepperidge Farm cookies.
-- Jeff Weiss