Five Particularly Unusual Christmas Albums – A Musical Guide for the Weirdest Time of the Year

The earth managed to circle around the sun again and it is time for the winter holidays once more! If your Christmas routine is anything like mine, each year offers an abundance of eating, shopping, stressful travel, making conversation with estranged friends and relatives, uncomfortable sweaters, and frigid weather.


Call me a cynic, but even in the most normal of holiday scenarios, I often find myself realizing that this is a strange ritual we humans take part in. Good, bad, or in between, Christmas time is always a little more unusual than the rest of the year.

Personally, I believe that there is a need for our holiday music to reflect this sentiment. Like it or not, Christmas music is a staple of the season and we deserve a little better than the cliché, mind-numbing renditions that blast over the intercom as we push through the mall. This is why I’ve compiled a list of five completely bizarre holiday albums—to give you the creative boost to handle whatever wacky stuff the season throws at you. They are each spectacular combinations of festive cringe-worthiness mixed with a heavy dose of awe-inducing magnificence. It’s not by any means a complete list (there are tons of truly insane Christmas albums if you do some digging) but it makes for a great starter pack. Enjoy!

Funky Christmas – James Brown (Universal, 1995)This is certainly the most danceable album on this list, and, as the title suggests, might be the funkiest Christmas record ever made. It’s everything you would expect from the hardest working man in show business and features almost entirely original music, as opposed to digging into the traditional holiday canon. Some of the standout songs are “Go Power at Christmas Time,” “Santa Claus, Got Straight to the Ghetto,” and “Soulful Christmas.”

Dreamers Christmas – John Zorn (Tzadik, 2011)

John Zorn is a world-renowned saxophonist, composer, and a recipient of the McArthur Genius Grant. If you’re familiar with his vast array of music, you may be half-expecting this Christmas album to be more than slightly aggressive (a la Spy vs Spy or Naked City). However, Zorn’s Dreamers project focuses on a gentler sound, blending surf rock, straight-ahead jazz, and some kind of surrealist elevator music. The thoughtful quirkiness of this record makes it an excellent alternative to the run-of-the-mill holiday jazz collection.

A Twisted Christmas – Twisted Sister (Razor & Tie, 2006)

One of several famous hair-metal bands to come out of the 1980s, Twisted Sister reunited in the early 2000s to release two more albums. “A Twisted Christmas” would sadly be their final record. This album is made up of popular Christmas carols jacked up with overdriven guitars, pounding drums, a fair amount of falsetto, and some altered lyrics to match the heavy metal theme. One of the highlights is the performance of “O Come All Ye Faithful” fitting with the instrumental accompaniment to their hit single “We’re Not Gonna Take It.”

Like Twisted Sister, Jethro Tull’s Christmas record would be their final album release. If you’ve ever wondered what it would be like to spend the holiday season at a renaissance fair with a bunch of prog-rock musicians from the 1970’s, this is basically it. The album is made up of mostly original material, occasionally referencing some well-known carols. In classic Jethro Tull fashion, the record is also full of long instrumental interludes, cryptic lyrics in olde English, and really epic flute solos.
Whenever I’m having a rough day, I try to take a deep breath and remember that this album actually exists. The fact that somebody decided to combine Christmas and Star Wars guarantees to put a smile on my face. The collection of songs tells the story of a droid factory that makes toys for the holidays and is narrated by the voice of the original C-3PO. Chewbacca, R2D2, and a slew of studio musicians are also featured prominently throughout the record. Little known fact: This was the very first professional recording to feature rock star Jon Bon Jovi!

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