40 Essential Christmas Albums

Classics and new entries worthy of your holiday bonus

The Ventures, 'The Ventures' Christmas Album'
Courtesy Capitol Records27/40

27. The Ventures, 'The Ventures' Christmas Album'

The Ventures, the instrumental surf band famous for the "Hawaii Five-O" theme, came up with a simple formula on this fun 1965 album: start each song by quoting a rock hit, and then launch into a twangy cover of a Christmas classic. So "Jingle Bells" is built on the riff for Ray Charles' "What'd I Say" and "Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer" is mashed up with the Beatles' "I Feel Fine." Simple but very effective: it still sounds fresh today.

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