By 1966, [lastfm link_type="artist_info"]Booker T. and the MG’s[/lastfm] were well-established as one of the greatest groups in history, laying down the groove for superstar acts at Stax Records in Memphis and scoring hits on their own. And in that year, they decided to get down with Santa Claus, too.
In the Christmas Spirit was released in October 1966. The album is a showcase for keyboard player [lastfm link_type="artist_info"]Booker T. Jones[/lastfm], whose playing ranged from warm and sweet to funky and insistent, and for guitarist [lastfm link_type="artist_info"]Steve Cropper[/lastfm], who continued his twin habits of never playing a lick more than necessary and always putting them in precisely the right spot. Don’t sleep on the work of [lastfm link_type="artist_info"]Donald “Duck” Dunn[/lastfm], either, whose bass anchors the groove when the band is groovin’ and snuggles up tight on the slower numbers. Drummer [lastfm link_type="artist_info"]Al Jackson[/lastfm] spends a great deal of time working brushes and percussion instruments other than drums (and shaking the sleigh bells), but he, too, is always in the pocket.
In the Christmas Spirit runs only about 34 minutes, but no other album I can think of lends itself so well to the “repeat” function. It sets a holiday mood like nothing else does.
Here’s the album’s lead single, “Jingle Bells,” in which all four members of the band get their turn in the spotlight, and one subtle change in the tune makes it extremely funky.