Reviewed by Zach Mathews on 2nd December, 2019
Bells will be ringing at the start of Charles Brown’s soulful Sings Christmas Songs album. What follows is an unhurried collection of non-standard R&B Christmas tunes. Outside of two terrific originals, what stands out about Charles Brown Sings Christmas Songs is that it was released without a clear connection to a time or place.
By 1961, Charles Brown was an old-school R&B relic. He had, for almost twenty years, been the R&B singer that your mother enjoyed. His voice is clear and pleasant, if without much character or feeling. At the time of release, the R&B world was undergoing a revolution with artists like James Brown (also on King Records) who emphasized personality and energy; Charles Brown did not attempt any of that. By 1961, Charles Brown felt like James Brown’s square uncle.
King Records was a label from the American mid-West that drew sounds from all over the country. Charles Brown Sings Christmas Songs has Nashville rhythm, gospel organ, and a relaxed California vocal delivery. It is a melting pot album which is both bluesy and cheesy, kitschy and straight. It is from nowhere and everywhere, feeling dated right from the day it was released. This, of course, it exactly why it works as a Christmas album. From the beginning, it has felt as though it were from another time.
The best elements Charles Brown brings to Christmas music may not sustain an entire album. Still, there are some hits here – Please Come Home for Christmas, Merry Christmas Baby, Christmas Blues and Brown’s piano on Christmas Comes but Once a Year are all excellent. Surrounding these hits with easy-listening R&B makes Sings Christmas Songs worth your time.
This is the record for when the guests have gone home and you have some dishes to do. For the satisfaction of holding the household together for another Christmas dinner, for another year.
This is a guest review written by Zach Mathews from Vancouver, Canada. If you’re interested in contributing to Records.Christmas, please get in touch with us!