Ahh, the Christmas album. Sure as the turkey starts to stack on a couple of extra pounds, the annual slew of festively-themed musical cash ins tumble into our lives.
Most of them are, of course, garbage – look no further than Blackmore’s Night's Winter Carols for proof of that. Or on second thoughts, don't bother. But when done right, a rock'n'roll Christmas album is a thing of unmitigated beauty. Whether it's festive favourites being given a little extra oomph with the backing of hard rock royalty, or a risky attempt at bringing original material into the Christmas canon, a well-executed Christmas album can be all you need to get your Christmas spirit well and truly flowing.
With that in mind, we've selected the best rock'n'roll Christmas albums of them all – and there's not a Wizzard or a Slade in sight. Whether it's at the office Christmas party or while you're carving up your dinner, be sure to hijack the playlists with plenty of these classics.
Twisted Sister – A Twisted Christmas
Born and raised in a Christian household, Twisted Sister frontman Dee Snider has long had an affection for all things Baby Jesus-tastic. His band’s 2006 collection A Twisted Christmas offers a splendidly rowdy, yob-rock take upon Xmas standards, with bonus points being awarded to the Noo Yawkers for sneaking the riff to We’re Not Gonna Take It into their balls-out version of Oh Come All Ye Faithful.
Cheap Trick - Christmas Christmas
So good they named it twice. If you want anyone to write a new Christmas song, it’s going to be someone who lived and created through the era when all the best songs were written.
The Cheap Trick Christmas single, Merry Christmas Darlings, is essentially an amalgamation of all the things that made the classic Christmas rock stompers great, and it comes replete with an album of relatively true to life covers of those exact songs, too. Very enjoyable all round.
Vandals - Oi! To The World
Punk rock, Christmas cheer, and the pun that really does write itself: it's safe to say this album has it all. Recorded in 1996, it's packed to the brim with that specific brand of punk bro 90s humour that hasn't aged particularly well (check out My First Christmas As A Woman for wince-inducing evidence of that) but with songs with names like Christmas Time For My Penis – a paean to wanking more all year round – it's hard not to hold a nostalgic soft-spot for this one.
Various Artists – We Wish You A Hairy Christmas
Among the many traditional aspects of the festive season – the egg-nog, the turkey, the shitty Secret Santa gifts – who among us hasn’t wished to hear a glut of LA hair metallers bringing their considerable talents to bear upon some Yuletide classics? Happily, We Wish You A Hairy Christmas does just that, with the likes of Warrant, Bullet Boys, LA Guns, ex-Guns N’ Roses guitarist Gilby Clarke and Faster Pussycat offering once heard, never forgotten deconstructions of familiar seasonal treats. Sweet baby Jesus, this is powerful stuff.
Scott Weiland – The Most Wonderful Time Of The Year
Given the late Velvet Revolver / Stone Temple Pilots’ frontman’s fondness for white powder, it was surely inevitable that at some point he’d fancy channelling his inner Bing Crosby on a collection of wholesome Christmas anthems. 2011’s The Most Wonderful Time Of The Year might not feature many down-tuned sleaze rock riffs, but Weiland’s lush delivery brings a certain poignancy to much-loved standards such as Silent Night, Winter Wonderland and White Christmas.
Various Artists – We Wish You A Metal Xmas and a Headbanging New Year
Featuring an all-star cast – Alice Cooper! Ronnie James Dio! Tony Iommi! Scott Ian! That fella from Ratt! – 2008’s We Wish You A Metal Xmas… is a truly wondrous artefact, with a clutch of ‘for one night only’ metallic supergroups joining forces to deliver imperious versions of seasonal stocking-rippers. The doomy Dio/Iommi take on God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen is magnificent, but arguably the album’s most memorable moment sees Lemmy, ZZ Top’s Billy Gibbons and Dave Grohl blitzing through Run Run Rudolph. Yule laugh, yule cry…
Halford – Halford III: Winter Songs
“I’ve always said I wanted to produce a Christmas CD,” said Judas Priest frontman Rob Halford somewhat unconvincingly as his solo band unveiled their own Yuletide selection box in 2009. The resulting album, however, was a triumph, with Halford injecting just the right amount of theatrical drama into twinkly classics such as We Three Kings, Oh Holy Night and Oh Come All Ye Faithful without the whole project dissolving into kitschy schmaltz. All together now… ‘He. Is. The. Pain. Keelar!’ Oops, wrong album.
The Jethro Tull Christmas Album
Prog and Christmastime go together like trees and tinsel, and this Jethro Tull classic is the cream of the whimsical Christmas crop. “When the record company suggested we do a Christmas album, my immediate reaction was no, but I started to wonder if there was a way to do something not altogether cheesy and trivial," Tull mastermind Ian Anderson told Prog magazine earlier this year. "So I came up with some variations on Christmas carols, looking at the ‘other side’ of Christmas. Some Tull material was re-recorded as I already had a few pieces in the repertoire that touched on the spirit of winter. Birthday Card At Christmas is special for me as my daughter’s birthday is on December 22 and it tends to be glossed over in the days before Christmas.” Hope you guys like flutes!
Bad Religion - Christmas Songs
Carols. Shite, aren't they? No longer may you suffer yer da's dreary church-themed soundtrack thanks to this collection of Christmas classics gone punk. There's nothing not to like about this festive EP from the Cali punk godfathers, and this one offers a slightly more erudite option for punk at Christmas than that aforementioned Vandals LP.
Various Artists - Monster Ballads XMas
I'll tell ya one thing, and that's that folks producing rock'n'roll Christmas albums cannot get enough of the old 'Xmas' abbreviation. Grammatical laziness aside, this is another all-star compilation which goes heavy on the glam and heavy metal, with turns from Skid Row, Queensrÿche, Enuff Z'Nuff and more. Always wanted to know what Kip Winger sounds like singing Happy Christmas (War Is Over)? Wonder no longer!