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25 for the 25th! - The Best (Essential) Christmas Albums

Steve
The list author says: "I've followed and studied historically popular music for more than 25 years, and secular music for the holiday season is some of my favorite music of all time. Based on personal preferences, as well as historical importance, these are my selections for the 25 most essential holiday albums of all time. Unfortunately, a few of these selections are no longer in print (though substitutions are mentioned when possible)."
A Christmas Gift for You from Phil Spector
A Christmas Gift for You from Phil Spector
"The greatest rock & roll Christmas album of all time - bar none!  Originally released on vinyl LP on Nov. 22, 1963, this set compiled by legendary record producer Phil Spector contains "wall of sound" renditions of holiday tunes by the Ronettes, the Crystals, Bob B. Soxx & the Blue Jeans and the great Darlene Love performing the first (and best) version of "Christmas (Baby Please Come Home)."
Christmas Album
Christmas Album
"50,000,000 Elvis fans can't go wrong with this classic 1957 set by the King that's now out-of-print.  Try substituting either "If Every Day Was Like Christmas" (1994) or "Elvis Christmas" (2006) instead."
A Charlie Brown Christmas
A Charlie Brown Christmas
"The soundtrack to one of the greatest holiday TV specials of all time is also possibly the best holiday jazz album of all time.  It was originally released on vinyl LP in 1965 (the same year that the Peanuts holiday TV special debuted on TV), and it remains a true masterpiece by the late Vince Guaraldi."
The Christmas Song
The Christmas Song
"It doesn't get much better than this.  A true classic by any standard (holiday or otherwise).  Originally released on vinyl LP in 1960 under the title "The Magic of Christmas" (and then reissued in 1963 under the current title "The Christmas Song"), this set contains one of the best renditions of Mel Torme's "The Christmas Song (Merry Christmas To You)" ever recorded."
White Christmas
White Christmas
"Der Bingle first released this in 1945 as a collection of 78 rpm records under the title "Merry Christmas." This 1995 re-titled reissue contains Bing's 1947 re-recording of the most popular secular holiday tune of all time, Irvin Berlin's "White Christmas."  For a much more expansive set, seek out the 1998 double-disc set "Bing Crosby/The Voice of Christmas.""
Ella Wishes You a Swinging Christmas
Ella Wishes You a Swinging Christmas
"The First Lady Of Song's first holiday set contains swinging versions of "Sleigh Ride" and "Let It Snow! Let It Snow! Let It Snow!"  A true jazz treasure that was originally released on vinyl LP back in 1960."
Hipsters' Holiday: Vocal Jazz and R&B Classics
Hipsters' Holiday: Vocal Jazz and R&B Classics
"The title says it all.  One of Rhino Records' best holiday compilations, it was released in 1989.  The set contains Eartha Kitt's 1953 hit "Santa Baby" as well as two originals by the great Louis Armstrong from 1953: "'Zat You, Santa Claus" and "Cool Yule"."
Ultimate Christmas
Ultimate Christmas
"Can anyone imagine a Christmas music list without an album by the legendary surf rock band from Hawthorne, California?  Brian Wilson and company released their first Christmas album back in 1964 (simply titled "The Beach Boys' Christmas Album"), but this 1998 compilation releaed by Capitol Records contains everything you'd ever need of their entire recorded holiday output."
Christmas With Dino
Christmas With Dino
"Now unfortunately out of print, this 2004 set compiles Dino's best holiday fair from both his Capitol and Reprise recording years onto one fine disc.  I'll drink to that!"
Soul Christmas
Soul Christmas
"Like "Hipsters' Holiday", you can't go wrong with this set.  Originally released on vinyl LP in 1968 by Atco Records, this 1991 expanded CD reissue by Atlantic Records contains some of the best soulful renditions of familiar holiday carols and original tunes as well, such as Donny Hathaway's 1970 classic, "This Christmas"."
Christmas Party With Eddie G.
Christmas Party With Eddie G.
"A superb "mix-tape" style holiday compilation put together by Emmy Award-winning Hollywood comedy writer Eddie Gorodetsky for Hollywood celebrity parties and first released on CD in 1990.  Check out the faux Three Stooges bits too."
A Jolly Christmas from Frank Sinatra
A Jolly Christmas from Frank Sinatra
"Out of all his years recording for the Victor, Columbia, Capitol and Reprise record labels, Ol' Blue Eyes' Capitol set from 1957 is his best Yuletide offering."
The Christmas Music of Johnny Mathis: A Personal Collection
The Christmas Music of Johnny Mathis: A Personal Collection
"Personally compiled by singer Johnny Mathis himself, this strong set collects 14 of Johnny's finest seasonal tracks from the many holiday albums he recorded during his career (the best of those being his first - 1958's "Merry Christmas", which also featured backing by the Percy Faith Orchestra)."
The Andy Williams Christmas Album
The Andy Williams Christmas Album
"Besides "Moon River", Andy's other signature tune ("It's The Most Wonderful Time Of The Year") was first released on this 1963 treasure.  You can also find another Williams holiday nugget - the medley "Happy Holiday/The Holiday Season" - on this excellent set."
James Brown's Funky Christmas
James Brown's Funky Christmas
"This funky 17-track compilation includes selections from seasonal albums cut by the Godfather of Soul in 1966, 1968, and 1970.  Originally released in 1995, this set has since been reissued within Universal's "20th Century Masters" series under the title "The Best of James Brown: 20th Century Masters/The Christmas Collection."  Look for it now under that title."
The Ventures' Christmas Album
The Ventures' Christmas Album
"Best known for their classic 1960 top 5 surf-rock pop hit instrumental "Walk -- Don't Run" and their theme to the TV series "Hawaii-5O", this legendary guitar-based instrumental rock band released (of all things) a Christmas album in 1965...and it remains one of the best holiday-themed rock albums ever released.  Sadly, the CD is also now out-of-print."
Snowfall: The Tony Bennett Christmas Album
Snowfall: The Tony Bennett Christmas Album
"Surprisingly strong holiday collection from the legendary crooner who left his heart in San Francisco.  Originally released on vinyl LP in 1968 and containing excellent renditions of "Winter Wonderland" and "My Favorite Things", this latest reissue also includes a bonus DVD containing clips from a Bennett holiday TV special."
Complete RCA Christmas Collection (3 CD Set)
Complete RCA Christmas Collection (3 CD Set)
"The most complete holiday collection currently available in the U.S. from the legendary easy-listening singer who hosted many holiday TV specials in his day."
A Motown Christmas
A Motown Christmas
"Still the best holiday collection from the legendary Detroit record label.  It was originally released as a 24-track double LP on vinyl in 1973 (but 25 tracks on the 1999 reissue).  Sadly, it's also now out-of-print."
Bummed Out Christmas
Bummed Out Christmas
"For the darker side of the holiday season, check out this 1989 out-of-print set from Rhino Records, if you're lucky enough to find a copy.  Some humorous and bizarre tunes in this collection."
Christmas Classics
Christmas Classics
"Another great aptly-titled Rhino Records compilation.  (What can I say?  They sure know how to do it right!)  Released in 1989, this 18-track set collects many of the great holiday singles recorded by a variety of rock & roll, R&B and popular artists from the 1950s and 1960s.  Yet, like so many other great albums, it's also out-of-print."
Hillbilly Holiday
Hillbilly Holiday
"Yet another tragically out-of-print set from Rhino Records that collects some of the best older country and bluegrass holiday tunes ever recorded.  It was released in 1988."
A Very Special Christmas
A Very Special Christmas
"Released in 1987, this is the first and by far still the best of the "Very Special Christmas" series of charity holiday albums to benefit the Special Olympics.  This is the album that gave us Run-D.M.C.'s "Christmas in Hollis"."
Christmas Album
Christmas Album
"Originally released on vinyl LP in 1967, Babs surprised everyone by recording a Christmas album.  It's also one of the best albums of her career and contains one of the most interesting versions of "Jingle Bells" you'll ever hear, as well as a beautiful version of "Silent Night"."
Christmas Portrait
Christmas Portrait
"1978 seasonal album by the popular '70s soft-rock duo that still stands up today.  It contains the classic holiday ballad "Merry Christmas Darling", which was first released as a single by the duo in 1970."