As an agnostic and person of refined taste, I loathe damn near all Christmas music. Always have, always will. However, I do find an infinitesimal percentage of recordings made to celebrate this bloated holiday to be tolerable. On my short list of listenable albums dedicated to xmas, Peace by the Chicago psychedelic-soul ensemble Rotary Connection certainly deserves a special spot under the tree. The fact that they focus on originals amid their freaky interpretations of “Silent Night” sure helps nudge this LP into the victory column, as do the impeccable arranging skills of Charles Stepney.
Beginning with expected solemnity, the first of three versions of “Silent Night” softly explodes into an elegantly chaotic guitar solo, frenetic, Keith Moon-like drumming, and a concatenation of bells. Somebody spiked the eggnog with LSD, praise Jesus! The second rendition’s more traditional in structure, but again boasts some outré guitar fireworks. Finally, “Silent Night Chant” deploys a slinky, funky rhythm in its serpentine, psych-rock reconfiguration of this overplayed Austrian carol. I just might spin it in my next DJ set.
Elsewhere, “Last Call For Peace” is wild-spirited orchestral soul that will make you want eradicate war forever. “Christmas Child” is smooth, progressive soul that challenges the lushest Supremes songs of the era for over-the-top production and arrangement honors. With Stepney and vocalist Minnie Riperton in tow, nothing succeeds like excess. The ballad “If Peace Was All We Had” sweeps and soars like peak-era Brian Wilson and Scott Walker and is a silky wonder of vocal layering.
The record’s not all good, sadly. “Shopping Bag Menagerie” and “Sidewalk Santa” are over-egged schmaltz. Overall, though, Peace performs the miraculous feat of nullifying my perennial “bah humbug” attitude for about 40 minutes. -Buckley Mayfield
Located in Seattle’s Fremont neighborhood, Jive Time is always looking to buy your unwanted records (provided they are in good condition) or offer credit for trade. We also buy record collections.