Album: James Brown, The Complete JB Christmas (Hip-O)

As a boy, the Godfather of Soul didn't get toys for Christmas.

He later approached the making of his three 1960s yuletide albums with a brusqueness bordering on the cavalier. And yet these 46 tracks collected on two CDs offer a thrilling reminder of Brown's talents. They were also the first of his albums with a unified, thematic feel, evident in exceptional string and horn arrangements by Nat Jones and Pee Wee Ellis. What made this great popular culture rather than cash-in trash was that someone cared.