40 Essential Christmas Albums

Classics and new entries worthy of your holiday bonus

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Ray Charles, 'The Spirit of Christmas'
Courtesy Concord32/40

32. Ray Charles, 'The Spirit of Christmas'

When Charles recorded this album in 1985, he was in the middle of a schmaltzy Nashville phase, and some of that leaks into this collection – but for much of the album, he bears down like he invented rhythm and blues. (Oh, right, he basically did.) Check out his super-groovy take on "Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer," where Rudolph sounds like a lost soul brother who somehow ended up at the North Pole.

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