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The Night Before Christmas 2

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Album Review

Sounds of Blackness released their first Christmas album, Night Before Christmas: A Musical Fantasy, back in 1992. Produced by Terry Lewis and Jimmy Jam, one of the most dominant urban production teams of the 1980s, it was full of the big, cavernous, and somewhat trippy R&B sound the duo specialized in, and the result, at least to some ears, was more bombast than innovative, a problem that is at least somewhat addressed in Night Before Christmas, Vol. 2, which was recorded in 2004 with Terry Lewis and Jimmy Jam notably not aboard. Sounds of Blackness specialize in what might be called urban fusion gospel with a strong theatric base, and for this holiday album they've turned up the percussion on everything, so these tracks fly along on enough energetic polyrhythms to keep Santa jivin' forever. Although it's a little disconcerting to hear "Silent Night" sung to looped drums, the truth is, somebody had to do it eventually, so why not Sounds of Blackness? One of the best tracks here is "Do the Funky Chitlin'," which is, well, hugely funky, if only marginally seasonal. The final three cuts are instrumental backing tracks, and they're wonderfully huge in sound, with massed horns and strong, bold string arrangements (especially the jazzy big-band take of "Holiday Love 2"). In the end, this second volume seems less forced and more fun that the first installment, and the omnipresent drums alone will get you dancing as you hang those stockings with ease.


Formed: 1969 in St. Paul, MN

Genre: R&B/Soul

Years Active: '60s, '70s, '80s, '90s, '00s, '10s

Sounds of Blackness, a 40-person choir and ten-piece orchestra led by Gary Hines, combined traditional African music with urban soul to become one of the most distinctive and popular contemporary gospel groups. Over the course of their career, the group won many awards, from organizations as diverse as the Grammies and the NAACP. Russel Knight formed the group that would prove to be the origins of Sounds of Blackness in 1969 at St. Paul, Minnesota's Macalester College. It wasn't until 1971, when...
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The Night Before Christmas 2, Sounds of Blackness
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