Most great rock albums made for Christmas will be compilations of artists, each with their own take on classic Christmas carols or songs they have written with their own Christmas or holiday theme. In choosing music that appeals to rock fans, it’s good to include a variety of artists, styles, and even genres within the rock context. The five albums listed below can easily be called “golden rings,” sure to make great Christmas listening “merry and bright.”
“Classic Rock Christmas” by Various Artists (Hip-O Records, 2008)
The “Classic Rock Christmas” series has been coming out for years now, with varying degrees of success. Last year was one of its best, with a wide range of artistic style among those chosen to perform (such as Elton John, Bryan Adams, Richie Sambora, Joey Ramone, Pat Benatar, Joan Osborne, and others). Songs range from traditional Christmas melodies like “Oh Come All Ye Faithful” and “Silent Night” to more rocking numbers like “Wild-Eyed Christmas Night” and “Run Rudolph Run.”
“Southern Rock Christmas” by Various Artists (Sanctuary Records, 2002)
For fans of Southern rock, there is no better Christmas album than this. Classic rockers will enjoy “Christmas Blues” by Canned Heat and “Jingle Bell Rock” by 38 Special. There is some great guitar work on this album (particularly Steve Morse with “Joy to the World”). All the classic Southern bands are represented, from Lynyrd Skynyrd to Alabama to Charlie Daniels with “Christmas Time in Dixie.” Those who enjoy classic rock, southern fried, will really like this album. The biggest complaint to be made about this CD is that once you’ve heard it, you’ll wish there were more.
“Elton John’s Christmas Party” by Various Artists (Hip-O Records, 2006)
Although Elton John gets top billing for this CD, there is an amazing range of artists included. John himself only performs two songs (one with Joss Stone), with other music provided by groups like the Beach Boys, the Ventures, the Band, Flaming Lips, U2, and Pet Shop Boys, as well as individual artists like Chuck Berry with a great “Run Rudolph Run” and Otis Redding performing “Merry Christmas Baby.” For some surprisingly great additions, check out Jimmy Buffett with “Christmas Island” and Rufus Wainwright with “Spotlight on Christmas” and the always-great Pretenders with “2000 Miles.” You won’t soon tire of this music. Best of all the proceeds from this great Christmas compilation benefit Elton John’s AIDS Foundation, so not only can you enjoy great music, but do good as well.
“A Very Special Christmas 3” by Various Artists (A&M 1997)
This series of Christmas music CDs is likely the most well known around. With their Keith Haring-like covers to the artists who fill out the Christmas rosters, you really can’t go wrong with this collection of Christmas music. Benefiting the Special Olympics, this CD includes groups like Smashing Pumpkins and Blues Traveler, and a range of individual artists like Natalie Merchant, Sting (with an amazing “I Saw Three Ships”), even Snoop Dogg chiming in. In addition to the now-defunct Pumpkins, another great group performing here is Hootie and the Blowfish with “The Christmas Song.” Mary J. Blige shows up with “Christmas in the City.” If all those performers didn’t impress, there’s more, namely Steve Winwood, Tracey Chapman, and the Dave Matthews Band. Just when you think it can’t get any better, along comes Patti Smith doing an electric “We Three Kings,” which is surely one of the finest cuts on the entire CD. This broad range of artists and performances means that there is surely something to please every rocker in the house, holiday or not.
“Punk Rock Christmas” by Various Artists (Rhino, 1995)
Finally, what would the holidays be without a little punk rock? (Oh so traditional.) While not everyone (even classic rockers) will approve of everything on this CD, for those who love this music genre, there is much to make “your spirits bright.” From the Ravers to the Damned, from Stiff Little Fingers to the Ramones, this is not your parents’ idea of proper holiday music. That being said, when you are having a Christmas or New Year’s bash without anyone who might object, this could be just the CD to kick things into high gear and get the party rocking.
Although these music selections are but a small sample of what’s available for your Christmas listening pleasure, they cover a wide range of artists and types of classic rock music with the holiday twist. The good news is that there are many more classic rock compilations (not to mention individual artists’ CDs) worth exploring. Merry Christmas and Rock On!