40 Essential Christmas Albums

Classics and new entries worthy of your holiday bonus

32

Ray Charles, 'The Spirit of Christmas'

Courtesy Concord

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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