Various Artists – Boogie Woogie Santa Claus, an R&B Christmas | Album Review

Various Artists – Boogie Woogie Santa Claus, an R&B Christmas

Richard Weize Archives

29 tracks / 79:07

The crazy holiday season is upon us, and us blues lovers might be a little reluctant to have the soundtrack at our holiday party be the same old songs that everybody hears on the radio. There is a cool bluesy solution to this conundrum: Boogie Woogie Santa Claus, an R&B Christmas from Richard Weize Archives. This CD provides well over an hour of Christmas-themed entertainment that includes 29 vintage songs in a format that both you and your guests will appreciate!

Richard Weize founded Germany’s Bear Family Records in 1975, and left the company in 2016 to focus on publishing historical material through the Richard Weize Archives. Richard’s private archive is huge and contains the mother lode of rare recordings. Richard and his crew research and re-master these songs, and issue them in compilations that include wonderfully complete liner notes. In the case of Boogie Woogie Santa Claus, an R&B Christmas, this results in a well researched glossy 72-page booklet with neat details about each of the tunes, including artist biographies, pictures, fun trivia, track personnel, and production details. This book would be fun to thumb through before your party so you can amaze your guests with your incredible grasp of arcane knowledge.

This disc is well engineered, and there is some remastering that took place. From the overall sound and mix it is obvious that the tracks were all recorded decades ago, but all of them have a very clean sound with no hissing or popping, with the exception of the Orioles’ “(It’s Gonna be a) Lonely Christmas.” Maybe this song was really rough to start with, or maybe they just wanted to retain the vintage vibe on this sad old song. Also important is that the songs have a balanced volume so the output is the same from all of them. This is a huge benefit, as the listener will not have to fiddle with the volume control like they would if some songs were too loud or too soft – making it perfect for your party!

Surprisingly, there are not very many of the usual Christmas songs to be found in the track list, but one of them earned the opening slot. Chuck Berry’s “Run Rudolph Run” from 1958 is exactly what the listener would expect, with a rip-roaring rock melody that is almost interchangeable with “Johnny B. Goode.” The real crowd favorite here is probably the Drifters’ superb 1954 rebuild of Irving Berlin’s “White Christmas.” It is hard to do better than Bing Crosby, but these fellows did the job and took the song all the way to #2 on the charts. There are also cheerfully rocking versions of “Rudolph, the Red-Nosed Reindeer” by The Cadillacs, “Silent Night” by Huey “Piano” Smith and the Clowns, and “Santa Claus Is Coming to Town” from The Harmony Grits.

This leaves the listener with over twenty unique holiday tunes that are golden to the rhythm and blues enthusiast. The title track is from Mabel Scott, and 1948’s “Boogie Woogie Santa Claus” is a tight piece of jump blues with a sweet saxophone solo from Maxwell Davis. There is another tune from Chuck Berry in the mix, “Merry Christmas Baby,” which is a bit more maudlin than the opener and comes complete with a sweet guitar break from Mr. Berry and wonderful piano from Ellis “Lafayette” Leake. The remainder of the set list reads like a “Who’s Who” of pre and postwar artists, including folks like Amos Milburn, Jimmy McCracklin, Jimmy Witherspoon, Solomon Burke, Roy Milton, and the Moonglows.

Boogie Woogie Santa Claus, an R&B Christmas is really cool collection of vintage rhythm and blues from a diverse collection of artists, and chances are really good that you have not heard all of these songs before. If you are looking to pick up a copy, it can be ordered directly from Bear Family Records though their website. It might be a good idea, as this is the perfect time of year to mix up a batch off eggnog and listen to these fun tunes!

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