Rotary Connection “Peace at Least”
And Shawn Lee’s Ping Pong Orchestra A Very Ping Pong Christmas: Funky Treats from Santa’s Bag
by Allen Thayer
On a similar note from Day 5, we have a psych-rock story song that finally explains how Santa Claus takes care of business in such a flawless manner every year. Sure, he’s got the elves and they can plausibly handle the presents, but he’s still doing all of the deliveries himself. Rotary Connection, featuring a young Minnie Riperton and arranged by the great Charles Stepney, have the answer for you in their song “Peace at Least.” Here’s my best transcription of my favorite stanza:
Why does Santa come down the chimney?
If he were cool he would come through the door.
But I know why. The cat is high.
Look at him, he’s stoned, he’s stoned out of his mind!
Oh, he smokes! (mistletoe)
Yes, this actually came out in 1968. There are a few interesting moments on the Rotary Connection Peace album, but for the most part, like many of Rotary Connection’s recordings, there’s just too much going on and not enough groove. In 2007, Shawn Lee’s Ping Pong Orchestra released A Very Ping Pong Christmas: Funky Treats from Santa’s Bag, which sounds like what you’d want from a Rotary Connection Christmas album, as well as a handful of other styles, none more so than on “Away in a Manger” which borrows respectfully and tastefully from the Minnie/Stepney collaboration on the beautiful “Les Fleurs.”
Listening to Ping Pong Christmas, I’m catching snippets of something else I’ve heard on nearly every song on the album, made up exclusively of Holiday chestnuts of the most obvious manner. There’s the “House of the Rising Sun” intro on “God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen,” or another killer tune driven Allen Toussaint’s “Yes We Can Can” groove, “Jingle Bells”:
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