While the calendar tells us we're already well into the 21st century, something about our current state of affairs has recently led more than a few of us to revisit another period of rapid change and tumult: the 1960s. To be sure, the '60s were a painful and difficult period, marked by steady drumbeat of grim reports of riots, war and the violent deaths of several great and worthy leaders. But the soundtrack of the '60s also reverberates with the sounds of sweet soul music, a style that came to dominate popular culture and offer much-needed escape from the divisiveness of the day. Questlove explores this theme in his wonderful 2021 documentary Summer of Soul, which examines the 1969 Harlem Cultural Festival that many believe helped New York escape the bloody riots that plagued many other cities that year. And more recently, rock superstar Bruce Springsteen surprised critics and fans by releasing an entire album of soul covers, a move several observers suggest may be another nod to the uplifting and unifying power of the genre.
This year's mix includes the typical grab-bag of styles and, as always, features tracks of wildly varying levels of quality, but it leans heavily toward quality soul, R&B and other stuff from the 1960s. It kicks off with an poignant excerpt from the 70th and final holiday message from H.R.H. Queen Elizabeth II, delivered last December following the death of her husband, Prince Phillip. After a brief musical number from the British TV series Are You Being Served?, the party really gets started with a little-known but extraordinary song by British rocker Graham Parker and former Labelle vocalist Nona Hendryx, called "Soul Christmas." From there we get several different holiday takes on the James Brown classic "Papa's Got a Brand New Bag," as well as holiday versions of "California Dreaming," "Up Around the Bend," "Green Tambourine," and "Get Off of My Cloud." You'll also hear a number of Beatles-themed tracks and a series of rare 30-second carols composed as part of the Free Speech Movement protests organized by Mario Savio and others at the University of California at Berkeley in 1964.
The balance of this collection includes a variety of offerings in many different styles, as can be seen in the track list that's available via the link at right (on the web version) or below (on the mobile version). You can also listen to or download the mix by using the applicable buttons. A preview of the first several tracks of this year's mix is available on SoundCloud by pressing the orange play button in the preview window.
Additional information about the tracks on this year's mix will be posted throughout the holidays on my holiday music blog, HERE.
Unfortunately, the software program I used to compile these mixes in previous years is no longer available, and I was unable to find a comparable replacement. As a result, I was forced to rely on a less robust alternative that took far more time and produced a less professional result. My apologies for that. Moreover, the demise of the CD as a popular recording medium has led me to discontinue my practice of circulating CDs to friends and family as I've during previous holidays. Finally, after nearly 20 years of producing these mixes, it's getting increasingly difficult to find new material. As a result, I can't promise that this won't be my last effort. It may be time to find some new and different way to celebrate the holidays. I do hope to keep this website up, and I'll post more information about my future plans.
My best wishes to all for a happy holidays and a wonderful 2023!