Going back to Bobby Helms’ "Jingle Bell Rock" and Chuck Berry’s "Run Rudolph Run," rock and rollers have tried to put a modern spin on the spirit of Christmas. Vying against crooners like Bing Crosby, Andy Williams, and Johnny Mathis is never easy this time of year, but a handful of more raucous artists have acquitted themselves well. Below are ten albums that would fit nicely in any rock lover’s stocking.


Lynyrd Skynyrd
Christmas Time Again

Deciding a southern rock Christmas was in order, Skynyrd recruited guests 38 Special and the Charlie Daniels Band to help fashion this inspired collection. Skynyrd gives Chuck Berry’s "Run Rudolph Run" a Stones-like, garage band treatment, and tosses in a bit of Yuletide lasciviousness with the original tune "Santa Claus Wants Some Lovin’." The Daniel Band’s version of "Santa Claus is Coming to Town" is basically a rewrite of "Devil Went Down to Georgia."


James Brown
Funky Christmas

Recorded in Brown’s late ‘60s heyday, this disc from the Godfather of Soul mixes holiday standards such as "Merry Christmas Baby" with a smattering of original songs. Who, other than Brown, could have come up with a title like "Santa Claus Goes Straight to the Ghetto"?

 

Barenaked Ladies
Barenaked for the Holidays

Barenaked Ladies' wacky humor proves well suited to the lighthearted aspect of the holiday season. On "Deck the Stills," the Canadian rockers substitute the words "Crosby Stills Nash and Young" for the main refrain of "Deck the Halls." Similarly silly moments abound, although the group does get serious with their folksy rendition of "Hanukkah Blessings."


Phil Spector
A Christmas Gift for You

Often hailed as the greatest Christmas-song collection ever, this album gathered artists from the early '60s Spector camp to perform a smattering of classics. High points include the Ronettes’ harmony-laden version of "Sleigh Ride," the Crystals' spirited rendering of "Santa Claus Is Comin’ to Town," and Darlene Love’s yearning version of "Christmas (Baby, Please Come Home)."

Brian Setzer Orchestra
Christmas Rocks: The Best of Collection

The Stray Cats frontman serves up a perfect blend of big band swing and vintage rockabilly on this mix of familiar carols and obscure rock nuggets. Alongside such standards as "White Christmas" and "Jingle Bell Rock," Setzer tosses in some zany boogie on tracks like "Dig That Crazy Christmas."


Elvis Presley
Christmas

Recorded in 1957, when the King ( was in full rock and roll flight, this disc rates just a tad below the Spector album on the classic scale. "Blue Christmas" is embedded in the national consciousness, but Presley’s magnificent takes on "White Christmas" and the Leiber/Stoller original "Santa Claus Is Back in Town" are nearly as good.


Jethro Tull
Christmas Album

Tull frontman Ian Anderson’s goal on this 2003 disc was "to find some uplifting traditional Christmas carols, some new songs, and to re-record some old Tull pieces on the Christmas topic." The eccentric minstrel was obviously inspired by the process, as he and his Tull ‘mates delivered their finest folk-prog album since the ‘70s. Guitarist Martin Barre’s acoustic work is especially dazzling.


Various Artists
A Very Special Christmas

At the time of its release in 1987, this album was hailed as the best Christmas album since the Phil Spector compilation. Highlights include Madonna’s campy version of "Santa Baby," John Mellencamp’s hoedown treatment of "I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus," and the Pointer Sisters’ rousing rendition of "Santa Claus is Coming to Town."


Beach Boys
Christmas with the Beach Boys

Originally released in 1964, this album mixes holiday standards with original songs penned by Beach Boys mastermind Brian Wilson. The group’s trademark vocal harmonies are in full bloom on "Frosty the Snowman," and their a cappella version of "Auld Lang Syne" is pure magic.

 

Twisted Sister
A Twisted Christmas

Here we have Dee Snider delivering "Oh Come All Ye Faithful" in his own inimitable way. Actually, this 10-song collection comes off as reverent in spite of itself. True, "Deck the Halls" sounds like a Ramones outtake, and "I’ll Be Home for Christmas" (sung by guest Lita Ford) is pure arena rock, but the disc has a goofy charm. On "Twelve Days of Christmas" (rechristened "Heavy Metal Christmas"), Snider replaces the refrain "partridge in a pear tree" with the words "a tattoo of Ozzy."