The record begins with five original Wilson compositions in which the Beach Boys conjure the Christmas spirit through harmonies and handclaps that'll have you imagining snow on Southern California's beaches. The last seven tracks are where the bandmates do the impossible by making the standards listenable. They pour their seemingly sunny disposition into tunes you've heard thousands of times, such as "White Christmas," "I'll Be Home for Christmas," and "Frosty the Snowman," but what gives the songs added resonance is they wander into the realm of sad nostalgia used later in "Wouldn't It Be Nice" and "In My Room." It hits you someplace between your heart and your gut.
The Beach Boys weren't the only rock band to get Christmasy. Probably the most famous was their peers and rivals the Beatles. From 1963 until they broke up in 1970, the Fab Four every December mailed members of their fan clubs in the States and
John Lennon later took the December holiday more seriously with "Happy Xmas (War Is Over)." The 1971 song he wrote and recorded with Yoko Ono includes the Harlem Community Choir providing both a sad and festive spirit meant to inspire an end to the Vietnam War and
To raise money for famine in Ethiopia, dozens of artists contributed to 1984's "Do They Know It's Christmas?" Among the contributors were U2, Sting, Phil Collins, Duran Duran, George Michael, and Boy George. The star power of the earnest anthem made it the biggest-selling album in U.K. history, even though the song took
Other rocking carols to check out include the Ramones' "Merry Christmas (I Don't Want to Fight Tonight)," the Fall's "(We Wish You) A Protein Christmas," and, most famous, Run-D.M.C.'s "Christmas in Hollis," which has been used in a slew of Christmas movies, including Die Hard and The Grinch.
But possibly the greatest Christmas album of the 21st Century might have once again come from Brian Wilson. In 2005, he released What I Really Want for Christmas, where he redid some of the songs from The Beach Boys' Christmas Album. His voice might not have the same range it once did, but it still reaches the pitch that could trick you into drinking eggnog. And his rendition of "We Wish You a Merry Christmas" might just get you through December 25.
Brian Wilson. 8 p.m. Wednesday, December 12, at Hard Rock Event Center, 1 Seminole Way, Hollywood; 954-327-7625; seminolehardrockhollywood.com. Tickets cost $45 to $105 via ticketmaster.com.