Every year, another motley assortment of holiday albums comes our way. Whether we want it or not.
This year’s haul has been especially weird. Yes, weird. Tori Amos, typically for her, found an unusual way to approach “Silent Night” and “We Three Kings” and all the rest – she used them as building blocks for what are essentially her own songs. But Rob Halford, the frontman of veteran metal band Judas Priest, chose to wade right into all the treacle and sugarplums with his Christmas record, and hearing that voice sing “O Come All Ye Faithful” is truly a strange experience.
But the King of Weird this holiday season is Bob Dylan. His Christmas In The Heart is so deeply confusing that even the people who love it use words like “maddening,” and “creepy” to describe it, and the people who hate it – like me – find that they can’t just dismiss it out of hand. There it still sits, on my desk next to the CD player, so that I can occasionally just throw it in to remind myself that yes, this really happened.
Want a Christmas record that is truly new, even as it tackles some of the best-known holiday classics? Try Carla Bley’s new album, Carla’s Christmas Carols. The veteran jazz pianist and bandleader has often been considered one of the free spirits of the music world – unpredictable and eccentric and underappreciated. But her Christmas album isn’t weird. It’s original and genuine and warm; and yeah, “God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen” appears in 5/4 time, sounding like a mashup of the familiar tune with Dave Brubeck’s “Take Five,” but that just makes you appreciate the tune and the arrangement all the more. And that makes for a happy holiday.
So, tell us: What’s the must-have or the must-to-avoid of this year’s holiday releases?