Various Artists:
Merry Axemas: A Guitar Christmas, Vols. 1 & 2

If you are looking for some holiday music where the performers aren’t afraid to turn it up to “11”, then these two albums should be perfect for you. Merry Axemas, Vol. 1 was released in 1997. Its follow-up, Vol. 2, came out one year later. Both feature some of the biggest names among rock, blues, and jazz guitarists and were produced by legendary rock virtuoso Steve Vai.

Kenny Wayne Shepherd’s rocking rendition mixes so much blues in that  it turns Rudolph’s nose purple. Similarly, Joe Perry’s great slide guitar work on Blue Christmas evokes the spirit of Elvis so strongly, that you think he never left the building to begin with. There is some great acoustic picking included from Eric Johnson, Alex Lifeson, Al Di Meola, and even Zakk Wylde, who turns White Christmas into an acoustic shred-fest of tinsel. There is plenty of electrical fretwork here as well, including Joe Satriani’s bizarre Silent Night, Holy Night Jam, Steve Morse’s Joy to the World, and Japanese guitarist Hotei’s fleet-fingered version of John Lennon’s Happy Xmas (War is Over). There is even big-band rockabilly swing from the Brian Setzer Orchestra on Jingle Bells, as well as a bass feature from Stuart Hamm on Sleigh Ride.

Some of the stand-out tracks include Jeff Beck’s soul-stirring rendition of Amazing Grace, producer Steve Vai’s emotion-packed arrangement of Christmas Time is Here, (from the Charlie Brown Christmas Special), and an absolutely jaw-dropping performance from Steve Stevens on Do You Hear What I Hear?, which features some of the most insane sounds ever produced by an electric guitar. This Christmas, it’s time to Rock the Halls.

Track Listing: (Click on the track name for YouTube links)
Volume 1:

  1. Kenny Wayne Shepherd: Rudolph, the Red-Nosed Reindeer
  2. Eric Johnson (from G3): The First Nowell
  3. Jeff Beck: Amazing Grace
  4. Brian Setzer (from the Stray Cats): Jingle Bells
  5. Joe Satriani (from Chickenfoot/G3): Silent Night, Holy Night Jam
  6. Steve Morse (from Deep Purple/Dixie Dregs): Joy to the World
  7. Steve Vai (from Frank Zappa/G3): Christmas Time is Here
  8. Joe Perry (from Aerosmith): Blue Christmas
  9. Alex Lifeson (from Rush): The Little Drummer Boy
  10. Richie Sambora (from Bon Jovi): Cantique de Noël (O Holy Night)
  11. Hotei: Happy Xmas (War is Over)
  12. Paul Gilbert (from Racer X/Mr. Big): Mount Fuji Christmas (Bonus Track on the Japanese edition.)

Volume 2:

  1. Steve Lukather (from Toto): The Christmas Song
  2. Neal Schon (from Journey): O Come, O Come Emmanuel
  3. Steve Stevens (from Billy Idol): Do You Hear What I Hear?
  4. Stu Hamm (from B3/G3): Sleigh Ride
  5. Trevor Rabin (from Yes): O Come All Ye Faithful
  6. Zakk Wylde (from Ozzy Osbourne/Black Label Society): White Christmas
  7. John Sykes (from Thin Lizzy/Whitesnake): God Rest Ye Merry, Gentlemen
  8. Robin Trower (from Procol Harum): O Little Town of Bethlehem
  9. Al Di Meola (from Return to Forever): Carol of the Bells
  10. Ted Nugent: Deck the Halls

(Buy them here: Volume 1, Volume 2)