Album: Various Artists, In the Christmas Groove (Strut)

Not even James Brown could convincingly make Christmas funky, so it's no surprise to find that most of the tracks on this rare-groove funk compilation lack the requisite sparkle.

Titles like "Soul Santa" and "Funky Funky Christmas" are perfunctory exercises in sleigh-bell cynicism, and J D McDonald's "Boogaloo Santa Claus" just incoherently energetic, while Jimmy Jules's "The New Year" boasts the bogus geniality of Philly-soul tainted by disco. Most of these tracks date from the early-1970s era of foregrounded Larry Graham-style strutting bass, the addition of which simply ruins an otherwise perfectly acceptable Jimmy Reed slouch groove on "Christmas Present Blues". But two or three cuts are exceptional, with Milly & Silly's "Getting Down for Xmas" boasting a neatly interlocking clockwork groove and two of the greatest guitar parts of all time. But the real standout is "Home on Christmas Day" by Captain Elmo McKenzie & the Roosters, a strange, beguiling piece in which the Barbadian Captain's plaintive but noble delivery, allied to an innocently sincere organ groove, could have come from anywhere across two oceans, from West Africa to the Caribbean to the Carolinas, and even parts of the South Pacific; it has the haunting authenticity of outsider folk-art, as opposed to the manufactured musical pleasantries that dominate the season.

Download this Home On Christmas Day; Getting Down for Xmas