40 Essential Christmas Albums

Classics and new entries worthy of your holiday bonus

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'The Ultimate Motown Christmas Collection'

The Ultimate Motown Christmas Collection
Courtesy of Motown Records

As a full-service musical empire, the Motown label released scads of Christmas albums; this double-disc 2009 album collects the highlights, plus spoken seasonal greetings from stars like the Supremes. Many of the standout tracks belong to Stevie Wonder and Smokey Robinson, but as ever, the engine is the Motown house band, which can find the funk in "The Little Drummer Boy." Trippiest cut: Marvin Gaye's "Purple Snowflakes," which seems to be about acid rain, or maybe just acid.

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