Chicago Christmas: What's It Gonna Be, Santa? is actually a retitled reissue of Chicago's 1998 album Chicago 25: The Christmas Album with six newly recorded extra tracks, bringing the running time up near 75 minutes.
All or nothing. For Laurence Jones, it's an easy choice. In recent times, the hotshot British bandleader has barely stopped for breath. There's been the release of 2014's all-conquering second album, Temptation. The triumphant Blues Caravan tour that saw him raise roofs across Europe. The auspicious nod to represent his country at this year's European Blues Challenge, and the prospect if his performance at the Albert Hall for Lead Belly Fest in June. At this juncture, a less passionate artist might cool their heels and count their royalties. No chance. Saviour of the British blues scene is not a position for part-timers, and in 2015, Laurence is back with his stunning third album, What's It Gonna Be…
Jazz-Funk band Pleasure are Bruce Carter on drums, Sherman Davis and Randy Hall on vocals, Donald and Michael Hepburn on keyboards, Douglas Lewis on guitar and Nathaniel Phillips on bass. Guests are Pat Gleeson and Kashif on synthesizers, Pete Escovedo Jr. and Jimmy Maelen on percussion, plus background vocals. The album was first released in 1982 on RCA Records and produced by Robert Wright and Pleasure.
The Beatles never quite made a commercially released Christmas album, though they put together special singles for their fan club every year from 1963 to 1969, then compiled them as The Beatles Christmas Album, also just for the fan club, in 1970. These recordings were more spoken-word than musical, though there was a song, "Christmas Time (Is Here Again)," heard in excerpts on the 1967 record. It has been left to Ringo Starr to release the first full-length Christmas album from a Beatle, and I Wanna Be a Santa Claus is very much in the group's spirit. Since he returned to recording in 1992, Starr has made a point of making music reminiscent of the Beatles, hooking up in 1998 with a group led by Mark Hudson dubbed the Roundheads. Hudson is everywhere on I Wanna Be a Santa Claus, co-writing the half-dozen originals with Starr and others, co-producing with Starr, and handling a variety of instruments. He and keyboard player/arranger Jim Cox clearly are steeped in the Beatles, and they have effectively recreated a Beatles sound on the record, in some cases aping specific songs.