Pop: This Year's Christmas Albums

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Funky Christmas


FEW STARS know how to work the festive season the way James Brown does. Funky Christmas is the Godfather's fourth Christmas album, although it's compiled from the previous three. There's plenty to recommend it - the impromptu riff and rap of "Santa Claus Go Straight To The Ghetto"; the great second-line snare work on "Christmas Is Love"; and all of "Let's Make Christmas Mean Something This Year, Parts 1 & 2". He also sticks closely to his namesake Charles's classic delivery of "Merry Christmas Baby", the greatest Christmas song of them all, a number so cool it concludes with the claim "I haven't had a toddy all morning/But I'm lit up like a Christmas tree". That's the spirit!


Holiday Songs And Lullabies


SPURRED BY her own impending motherhood, Shawn Colvin's seasonal offering is based on a Maurice Sendak-illustrated anthology of Lullabies & Night Songs she remembered from her childhood. The opening "In The Bleak Midwinter" is typical of the almost terminally relaxed manner employed, with soothing organ and strings providing a powerfully soporific backdrop to Colvin's delicate delivery. But the album's unrelenting tweeness, while appropriate in principle, is in practice rather more Mabel Lucie Attwell than Maurice Sendak. Rather a letdown from the singer whose last album, the Grammy- winning A Few Small Repairs, perhaps encouraged unreasonable expectations.


Merry Christmas...Have A Nice Life!


ON HER Christmas album, Cyndi Lauper accentuates the folksy, rural nature of her material, using instruments such as dulcimer and recorder to create a pleasing air of rustique moderne, with tambourine occasionally standing in for sleigh bells. There are hints of Ronnie Spector in her delivery of "Early Christmas Morning", but instead of the Spector Wall of Sound, she's backed by cajun accordion and child choir; likewise, her "Rockin' Around The Christmas Tree" is a frisky ska tune. It's a form which suits her well: Cyndi's dizzy, pantomime style allows her to indulge in shameless sing-along nonsense like "Minnie And Santa" with an alacrity denied to more "serious" singers.