40 Essential Christmas Albums

Classics and new entries worthy of your holiday bonus

Jimmy Smith, 'Christmas Cookin''
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Courtesy Verve20/40

20. Jimmy Smith, 'Christmas Cookin''

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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