Too much tertiary education... Former performer/wrestler...Former teacher... Scientist... Published author... Father... Want to be a writer if I grow up...
Published December 2nd 2018
Christmas albums can be awesome
Ah, Christmas. That time of the year when the secular community highjacks religious iconography in the name of crass commercialism. Or is that way too cynical? No matter – it is not my favourite time of the year, not least because it is also my birthday, and getting older just does not appeal. Having said that, I like the concept of families using it as a time to come together, and I like the whole pushing for community spirit feeling that comes out (and should not be absent for the rest of the year, for what it's worth). And, truth be told, I am a sucker for a Christmas song.
Looking back at the past record releases, it seemed that in the twentieth century, every year there were a heap of Christmas themed albums released by popular and well-known artists, or great compilation albums. I remember buying A Very Special Christmas in 1987 (proceeds going to the US Special Olympics team) and hearing Run-DMC's 'Christmas In Hollis' for the first time and being blown away.
However, it seems that in the modern era, Christmas releases just do not seem to exist as such. There might be songs, but full albums? Part of that, I realise, has to do with the alleged and slow death of the album as a concept thanks to online song sales (see – modern technology isn't all good!) but maybe it just isn't seen as being commercially viable any longer.
Having said that, despite everything I just wrote there have been some great Christmas albums released so far in the 21st century. Also, some quite dodgy ones, if I'm being honest here, but that's not the point of this.
Here's five of my favourite modern Christmas albums, covering a surprisingly wide variety of musical genres. Maybe you'll find something here you like!
Sia – Everyday Is Christmas (2017)
Let's start with a pop album. All originals (written by Sia and Greg Kurstin), no traditional or cover songs, it's full of the joy that Sia brings to much of her music. It's fun and bright, and most of the songs are quite good. I did feel 'Puppies Are Forever' is a bit of a brow-beater, but 'Sunshine' is awesome and 'Candy Cane Lane' is another highlight. This album is filled with songs that other artists are going to cover for years to come, guaranteed.
Brian Setzer Orchestra – Christmas Comes Alive (2010)
Big Band Jazz time! Brian Setzer (formerly of Stray Cats) has made some of the greatest big band albums of the modern era (combined with a healthy dose of swing). He has almost single-handedly resurrected the genre, and the albums are awesome. My personal favourite is Vavoom!. But he has also released some decent Christmas albums amongst that lot, and this is my favourite of those, a live album that makes you wish you were there in the audience. Fifteen great tracks, but the standouts are clearly 'Run Rudolph Run', 'Blue Christmas' and 'Jingle Bell Rock'. This is just brilliant.
Trans-Siberian Orchestra – The Lost Christmas Eve (2004)
Symphonic rock now. Trans-Siberian Orchestra combine classical, opera, rock and anything else they find lying around the place into one incredible mix. I own four of their albums, and this one has my favourite TSO track on it – 'Wizards In Winter'. Like all TSO album's it is a concept album, about an angel and New York City and other stuff, but don't let that stop you. Originals ('Back To Reason (Part II)'), reworkings of classical themes ('Christmas Canon Rock' is Pachelbel's Canon, for example) all add up to a mighty fine piece of music.
Check out the awesome use of 'Wizards In Winter' for a Christmas lights show!
Brad Paisley – A Brad Paisley Christmas (2006)
Now for some country! I am not the hugest fan of country music, but I do enjoy Brad Paisley and own a few of his albums. And this is a fine one. A mixture of originals and covers, it feels like a Christmas album, not a country album. Now, I am not a fan of Christmas carols, but even his version of 'Silent Night' and an instrumental 'Jingle Bells' sound pretty damn fine. But even his original '364 Days To Go' is a fine addition to the Christmas canon.
I believe this is a fan video.
Twisted Sister – A Twisted Christmas (2006)
And, to finish, how about a heavy metal Christmas? This is such a cool album, and I enjoy every track on it. These are all traditional or reworkings of traditional songs, and they are done superbly. 'White Christmas' and 'Deck The Halls' stand out, but the best track is so clearly their version of 'Oh Come All Ye Faithful' (done in the style of their mega-hit 'We're Not Gonna Take It') which was the track that inspired me to buy the album. This is such a fun, joyous Christmas album. I could listen to it all year round.
So, five albums, five different musical styles. Add Eric Clapton's album in, and there's surely something here for everyone. So I reckon you should all have a happy holiday!
What did I forget? What did I miss? Comments always welcome!