40 Essential Christmas Albums

Classics and new entries worthy of your holiday bonus


Willie Nelson, 'Pretty Paper'

Willie Nelson, Pretty Paper
Courtesy of Columbia Records

In 1963, Roy Orbison had a Number 15 hit with Nelson's song "Pretty Paper," about a homeless man surrounded by holiday shoppers – the single operatically slipped a knife into the gut of Christmas materialism. In 1979, Nelson recorded it himself in a more modest style, for a homespun Christmas album in the mode of Stardust, his 1975 collection of American standards. Nelson's secret weapon: Booker T. Jones (of Booker T. and the MGs), who played organ and did the arrangements.

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