As the year, and indeed the decade, winds down to a close we have jumped into the jolly spirit early to collect our 12 favourite Christmas albums of all time.
From James Brown to Ella Fitzgerald here is a cheerful masterpiece for every day of Christmas.
It’s a wonderful time of year. We look back on the best Christmas albums of all time for your perfect concoction of holiday cheer.
12. Bob Dylan – Christmas In The Heart
The last thing you would ever expect dropped in 2009 with Bob Dylan‘s Christmas In The Heart. Now more grizzly than ever before, Dylan’s voice does not say Christmas cheer quite like his counterparts.
However, by forcing us to look beyond the voice Dylan draws attention to the inevitable power of each ballad, honouring his place in American history and the music of Christmas.
11. Louis Armstrong and Friends – The Best Of Christmas Songs
Imagine Louis Armstrong throwing a Christmas Party at your place. Well now you can, and he’s brought friends Mel Torme, Dinah Washington, Duke Ellington and Lena Horne. Each song is immediately warm and familiar, like curling up in front of the fire in your childhood home, snowing silently falling.
Louis is positively lighting it up with tunes like Christmas Night in Harlem, highlighting the record as the party boss lets out a deep, warm, loving laugh.
10. Sufjan Stevens – Songs For Christmas
In the world of indie rock a Christmas album is essentially the antithesis of teen angst and emotional expressionism, however Sufjan Stevens effort is remarkably endearing.
His takes on the classics are warm and fuzzy, while his originals have all the staples of indie pop: a dose of a reality, wit and playful sarcasm.
9. Johnny Cash – The Classic Christmas Album
In 2003, the year Johnny Cash sadly passed, Sony Legacy put together a magnificent compilation of his greatest Christmas tunes between 1962 and 1980.
While there are a lofty collection of covers here, Cash truly shines on the poignant spoken word song poems like Christmas As We Knew It, teaching us all to be thankful for what we are able to give rather than receive.
8. Beach Boys – Beach Boys’ Christmas Album
Released two hears before Pet Sounds there are some poignant moments spread across the six originals here. Most notably Brian Wilson’s moments on White Christmas and Blue Christmas.
Other notable Beach Boys staples are Santa’s Beard, Little Saint Nick, Little Deuce Coupe, and Frosty The Snowman. Bound to make anyone’s Christmas a party, this early Beach Boys record is a classic.
7. Frank Sinatra – A Jolly Christmas From Frank Sinatra
On his fourth album from what was a very good year, Frank Sinatra serves up a positively brimming record of mistletoe magic. It’s wrapped very neatly in a red and white bow, and wrapped in a nuclear, certifiably middle-class, American values.
Nonetheless, Frank Sinatra is absolutely at the top of his game and the king of smooth is rolling out the hits with I’ll Be Home For Christmas and Have Yourself A Merry Christmas.
6. Ella Fitzgerald – Ella Wishes You A Swinging Christmas
The First Lady of Jazz certainly comes in swinging on her first Christmas album. Jingle Bells is such a galloping, up beat ditty that you might just have you dancing all the way through to March.
Christmas is also a time of introspection and perhaps a little dose of the blues. Ella Fitzgerald, of course, has it all with a healthy shot of jazz accompanied by an orchestra conducted by Frank De Vol.
5. James Brown – James Browns’ Funky Christmas
At his creative peak the godfather of funk recorded three Christmas albums, 1966’s James Brown Sings Christmas Songs, 1968’s A Soulful Christmas and 1970’s Hey America It’s Christmas.
This compilation is all the hits wrapped up into a neat little funk explosion. From Mr. Dynamite himself, inject a little soul into your jolly season.
4. Bing Crosby – White Christmas
The unofficial ambassador of christmas music, Irish crooner Bing Crosby was written into the annals when he covered Irving Berlin’s White Christmas selling 50 million copies and launching endless re-imaginings.
80 years later Crosby’s vocal ease remains the benchmark of stately elegance pouring velvety vocal butter on numbers like I’ll Be Home For Christmas and Silver Bells. Bing is the unquestionable king of Christmas albums and I defy you to disagree.
3. A Christmas Gift For You From Phil Spector – Various
One of the most recognisable pop albums ever, Phil Spector’s magnificent ‘wall of sound’ production adds grandeur and scope to proceedings. By 1963 Phil Spector was at his peak and A Christmas Gift For You was his crowning jewel.
Employing the whole Philles Records crew for three months of laborious recording to produce an album that was brought to life as much by it’s producer as by the artists.
Trivia note: the album released on the same day President John F Kennedy was assassinated, which is widely blamed for its poor chart performance in the US.
2. A Charlie Brown Christmas – Vince Guaraldi
Drenched deeply in nostalgia, A Charlie Brown Christmas is a delightful dose of smooth West Coast jazz. Akin to David Brubeck, The Vince Guaraldi trio achieve a stunning confluence of wintery introspection and upbeat anticipation, for what is now some of the most visually evocative American music in history.
Said Peanuts creator Charles Schulz, “The way they walk and bounce a little bit – he captured that in his music.”
1. Elvis Presley – Elvis’ Christmas Album
In 1957 Elvis Presley released one of the greatest Christmas album of all time topping the Billboard charts for a month and going on to sell 20 million copies. It should a more tender side to the King when the public thought he would do something outrageous.
It was the first time Elvis tackled anything remotely resembling a concept album, with Blue Chistmas going down as one of the most recognisable holiday tunes ever.