Musician: Gary U.S. BONDS

Label: G.L.A. RecordS

Yet another Christmas album? Do we really need yet another Christmas album?

Well, I suspect that depends on jus what, if any, sort of Christmas music you want to hear and the performers you want to hear it from. The song lists on holiday releases are typically more than similar even if the styles range all over the musical map. In the case of Christmas is On! From Gary U.S. Bonds, the name of the game is 10 upbeat melodies that are R&B, rockin', and soulful party music that's guaranteed to give your Yuletide gatherings a popping good ambiance.

In case you've forgotten, Bonds hit the charts by storm in 1961 with the Number One hit, "Quarter to Three." Twenty some years later, Bruce Springsteen gave Bonds a major resurgence by working with him on songs like "This Little Girl." Twenty years after that, Bonds again grabbed public attention with a series of concerts that reminded old-timers that you can still rock with the best of them even if you're 70something.

In fact, from the opening moments of the title song, "Christmas is On!", It's clear Bonds still has the energy of a virile young man even if he has the deep, rough-edged voice of a seasoned veteran. Sharing production duties with his daughter Laurie Anderson, who also sings background and the lead on "White Christmas," Bonds gets very soulful indeed with numbers like "It's Christmas in Nu Awlins" which sounds just like what you'd expect. "Santa Bring My Baby Home To Me" is pure reggae, and "Christmas is a Phone Call Away," a new original tune, is a happy take on the Bo Diddley riff.

Speaking of originals, "We Wish You a Merry Christmas" is a live party encapsulated in three minutes, and pretty much the rest of the album has the flavor of an early '60s Hit Parade with a Christmas theme. Only once, in the closing "Baby, Baby It's Christmas," does Bonds slow things down to deliver a soaring, melodic piece set to a string background that brings the message of the season home, down home that is.

So Christmas is On! Is on alright, a rokin' Christmas of the old school. If that's the music that warms your chestnuts and puts bubbles in your eggnog, turn it up! It's the sort of Christmas present you didn't know you wanted but you were glad to find in your stocking.

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Wes Britton's audio interview with Gary U.S. Bonds for online radio's "Dave White Presents