Happy Holidaze: Track-by-track with Bootsy Collins’ Christmas is 4-Ever

In terms of implied exuberance, there aren’t many phrases that can measure up to “Bootsy Collins Christmas album.” Maybe “birthday party unicorn ride” or “Super Bowl chocolate orgy,” but those are pure fantasy. Bootsy Collins’ 2006 LP Christmas is 4 Ever, on the other hand, is very real. So does it pull off the impossible dream of marrying the Yuletide spirit with pure-driven P-funk? Let’s take a track-by-track listen and find out.

“N-Yo City”

Funk factor: High. A marginally coherent holiday greeting from legendary emcee Danny Ray is laced with snippets of “Silver Bells.” The monologue is spiced up by horns and synth, but things really get grooving when Bootsy’s bass kicks in around the 1:40 mark.

Christmas factor: Moderate. Ray’s ramble hits some holiday notes (“Talkin’ ‘bout Rudolph, Santa Claus, this is when all the fun begun right here”), but there’s just as much non-sequiturial babbling about “funk sticks” and Cincinnati.

Analysis: A tantalizing appetizer that can’t quite stand alone.

“Merry Christmas Baby”

Funk factor: High. It’s a buoyant block of Moog-y effects and funky horns peppered with classic Bootsyisms (“I haven’t had a drink this morning / But I’m all lit up like a Christmas tree”).

Christmas factor: High. It’s a love jam first and a Christmas song second, but the double entendres are decidedly holiday specific.

Analysis: A worthy masculine counterpart to the seasonal sluttiness of “Santa Baby.”

“Jingle Belz”

Funk factor: Moderate. The song is driven by a cool sax line and Bootsy’s suitably spaced-out vocals, but the overall presentation has a surprisingly straightforward sheen.

Christmas factor: High. It’s “Jingle Bells,” for heaven’s sake.

Analysis: It feels kind of like something modern-day Bill Cosby would find super-cool. That isn’t a compliment.

“Happy Holidaze”

Funk factor: High. P-Funk meets G-Funk as an old school Funkadelic-style arrangement gets an update with flows from Snoop Dogg and D-Jizzle.

Christmas factor: Low. Aside from the chorus, there’s not much Christmas specific about this cut.

Analysis: The funk parts get into a solid groove, but the raps are extraneous and lifeless. The highlight may be the opening coda, in which we learn that famed sex trafficker Bishop Don Magic Juan gave Bootsy a clock for Christmas.

“Chestnutz”

Funk factor: Moderate. This update of Mel Torme’s “The Christmas Song” is a sweet slow jam played fairly safe and dedicated to Nat King, Natalie and “the entire Cole family.”

Christmas factor: High. This one feels as much like a Christmas tune as a Bootsy cut, although it leaves room for Collins-ian observations like “Life is not made of cheese.”

Analysis: It feels kind of like the standout track on a Christmas mix you might hear while shopping at Pier 1 Imports. That is a compliment.

“Winterfunkyland”

Funk factor: High. It starts out as a fairly standard “Winter Wonderland,” then takes a funky left turn as Bootsy brings in a flock of snowman-destroying alligators and declares, “I’ll be your snowball in the summertime, baby / Yeah, melt all over you!” Paul Patterson’s sweeping strings and Mike Hampton’s impeccable guitar lend an epic, hard-funk scope to the song’s final third.

Christmas factor: High. Underneath all the weirdness, it’s still “Winter Wonderland."

Analysis: Close to a best-case scenario for a Bootsy Collins Christmas carol.

“Santa’s Coming”

Funk factor: Low. Candis Cheatham’s lead vocal on this “Santa Claus is Coming to Town” reboot is straight-up R&B, with a little hip-hop break wedged in the middle.

Christmas factor: High. It’s a classic carol presented with less tweaking than most of the other tracks.

Analysis: This is one of the most annoying Christmas songs in existence, so it’s to everyone’s credit that this version is not just listenable, but actually enjoyable.

“Boot-Off”

Concept: The sad but ultimately redemptive tale of Boot-Off the Funky-Soul Reindeer.

Funk factor: High. It features children’s chorus chanting “Boot-Off with your globe so bright / Won’t you guide the Mothership tonight?” What else needs to be said?

Christmas factor: High. Most of the Rudolf mythology remains more or less intact, just pushed to much weirder dimensions.

Analysis: The kind of sublime goofiness many people probably expected from this project. Frankly, the album could use a little more of this vibe.

“Silent Night”

Funk factor: High. Bootsy prefaces a heartfelt reading of the old standard with an odd story about growing up in the ghetto and turning Santa into Jesus. The band melds funky bass and saxophone with soul and gospel elements on a track that ends up swinging surprisingly hard.

Christmas factor: High. Bootsy turns a universal favorite into an unexpectedly personal reflection on The True Meaning of Christmas.

Analysis: Sweetness isn’t the first thing you look for in a Bootsy track, but it’s here in abundance.

“Sleigh Ride”

Funk factor: High. You can bet the original songwriters never conceived of a chorus like “This is how we funk on Christmas / Fa-la-la-la-la La-funk-funk-funk.” Bonus points awarded for working guest fiddler and arch-redneck Charlie Daniels seamlessly into a Funkadelic format.

Christmas factor: High. Even when Bootsy goes off-book, he keeps this one within the basic thematic confines (the sleigh ride becomes a breakneck race doubling as sexual innuendo).

Analysis: The funk is decidedly more ‘00s than ‘70s, but Bootsy still knows how to keep those sleigh bells jing-jing-jingling.

“Dis-Christmiss”

Funk factor: Moderate. It’s a reprise of Donny Hathaway’s neo-soul hit “This Christmas,” and all of Bootsy’s organ jams and pick-up lines can’t quite overcome the inherent blandness.

Christmas factor: High. The crooning may not be especially memorable, but it’s definitely Christmassy.

Analysis: It’s not without its charm, but it’s probably the album’s most skippable track.

Analysis: It’s not without its charm, but it’s probably the album’s most skippable track.

“Be-With-You”

Funk factor: High. Bootsy covers his own signature song with a few perfunctory Christmas references thrown in for good measure.

Christmas factor: Low. Rewriting a classic as a holiday tune requires a bit more than recruiting Zapp to tack vocoder yelps of “this Christmas” onto the end of your refrains.

Analysis: This seasonal update of “I’d Rather Be with You” is neither necessary nor especially seasonal, but damn if it doesn’t kick nearly as much ass as the original.

“Christmas is 4-Ever”

Funk factor: High. Perhaps the biggest surprise of this generally fluffy album is that Bootsy manages to close things out with a hard-edged, socially relevant, heart-wrenching modern funk classic.

Christmas factor: High. Despite the schmaltzy-sounding title, this is a uniquely personal account of Christmastime’s impact on young Bootsy’s concepts of faith, family, love and loss.

Analysis: Even if the entire LP was recorded merely as wrapping paper for this present, it would all be worthwhile.

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