40 Essential Christmas Albums

Classics and new entries worthy of your holiday bonus

20

Jimmy Smith, 'Christmas Cookin''

Courtesy Verve

It starts with big pompous drums, heralding an overblown version of "God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen." And then a surprise: we get some funked-up Hammond organ instead. While Smith was a jazzman, his albums regularly hit the pop charts and his sound wasn't far away from the instrumental R&B of Booker T. and the MGs. This groovy 1964 album (also available as Christmas '64) sounds like it was recorded halfway between the North Pole and Memphis.

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