As much as I love listening to Nat King Cole and Vince Guaraldi, I simply need a break every so often from the standard shopping mall musical mix.
Here are some dynamite and different options, listed in chronological order:
“A Christmas Gift for You from Phil Spector” (1963): Christmas standards get the “Wall of Sound” treatment on this set featuring the Ronettes, Darlene Love and others from the Spector camp. It’s considered an absolute classic by basically everyone who’s ever heard it. Yet, it’s amazing how many people still haven’t heard it.
“The Christmas Album,” The Ventures (1965): Yuletide offering from the Tacoma-born Rock and Roll Hall of Fame instrumental act, best known for crafting the “Hawaii Five-O” theme.
“Goin’ Home for Christmas,” Merle Haggard (1982): The country legend croons mainly from the regular Christmas songbook, but the album’s best track is Hag’s own “If We Make It Through December.”
“Blue Yule” (1991): Roy Milton, John Lee Hooker, Jimmy McCracklin and other talents are featured on this blues/R&B set.
“Merry Axemas: A Guitar Christmas” (2005): Would you like some riffs to go with that eggnog? Then check out this Christmas compilation featuring Kenny Wayne Shepherd, Eric Johnson and other guitar heroes.
“Christmas Songs,” Diana Krall (2005): This might well be my all-time favorite holiday recording, as well as arguably the jazz star’s overall best album.
“It’s Christmas of Course,” Darlene Love (2007): Need more Love? Then search out this holiday offering from the great vocalist, who was featured in the recent documentary “20 Feet From Stardom.”
“A Twisted Christmas,” Twisted Sister (2010): Finally, a Christmas album that mom and dad will hate! If you dig this one, also check out the concert companion, “A Twisted Christmas: Live in Las Vegas.”
“Not So Silent Christmas with REO Speedwagon” (2010): The band once made a fortune on pop-rock power ballads and feel-good anthems, so it’s no surprise that REO is a natural fit for “I’ll Be Home For Christmas,” “Winter Wonderland” and other seasonal fare.
“A Very She & Him Christmas,” She & Him (2011): Zooey Deschanel and M. Ward provide a suitable soundtrack for a hipster holiday party.