wax Poetics

Salsoul Orchestra

Christmas Jollies II

Released 1981
record label Salsoul Records
Written by Allen Thayer

Salsoul Orchestra
Salsoul Orchestra

What y’all know about Christmas disco records? Most of them suck or maybe there’s a cool arrangement that lasts for forty-five seconds before returning to crap. Then there’s one from Mirror Image (otherwise known as the Pickwick Records house band and the masterminds behind Sounds Like Barbara Streisand and Discopeadia Vols. 1-5), which isn’t exactly A-game, but its ersatz reggae groove and lead synths turn “Deck the Halls” into a fun and energetic tune.

The one obvious exception to the majority of Christmas disco albums, however, are the two by the Salsoul Orchestra, Christmas Jollies and Christmas Jollies II. The former was helmed by the original Salsoul maestro, Vincent Montana Jr., and is a well-played and well-arranged set of disco-fied chestnuts. But for me, the latter is the real winner. Produced, arranged, and conducted by NYC disco don Patrick Adams in 1981, this was the final throes of the Salsoul Orchestra with few, if any, members from previous bands. This was Patrick Adam’s crew with Joceyln Brown delivering a personal Christmas classic with “You’re All I Want for Christmas.” It’s just a great modern-soul tune that happens to be a Christmas song. There’s also Adams’s Salsoul take on “Deck the Halls” with a lead vocal by Marion Rolle that is the funkiest take on that tune I’ve heard so far.

Finally, there’s the Kid Kreole Christmas contribution, ”Christmas On Riverside Drive,” officially credited to the group’s flamboyant frontman, August Darnell and a funked-up retake of his Gichy Dan’s Beachwood #9 tune ”Winter On Riverside Drive.” It appeared on one of the greatest record label–sponsored Christmas albums ever, Ze Records' A Christmas Record (honorable mention to Christmas on Death Row). This LP is another modern Christmas original that I can’t get enough of. Arguably the first alternative Christmas album, it also contains the likely familiar and still awesome “Christmas Wrapping” by the Waitresses.