Last year, my Christmas present to everyone that no one asked for was a list of "The only Christmas albums anyone needs."
That spurred countless comments, emails, and tweets (translation: 10 or 11) telling me that I missed a classic. So, I bought a pile more - as recommended - and I'm ready for the inevitable sequel: "The only other Christmas albums anyone needs."
I still maintain that there are more bad Christmas albums than good ones (and I include anything by Boney M or with the words "A Very Special..." in the title) and that good music is good every season, and bad music is bad every season.
With that in mind, here are the only other essential Christmas albums you'll ever need. Until next year's list.
1. The Supremes - Merry Christmas
The unheralded Christmas classic that sounds like Phil Spector produced it (he didn't) and notable for Diana Ross' awesome early career performance on "Little Bright Star" (top of blog post) and the worst version of "Silver Bells" ever recorded. Still: overall it's a keeper.
2. Stevie Wonder - Someday at Christmas
Nothing on the album was written by Wonder, but his vocals are in top form on the title track and - believe it or not - "Ave Maria."
3. The Whispers - Happy Holidays to You
I don't know a lot about this band (that's what Wikipedia is for!), but "This Christmas" and the title track are solid gold.
4. The Beach Boys - Christmas Album
I hate the Beach Boys, and anyone who says that they're better than the Beatles is insane. However, this collection has its fans - I get it, but I still find most of the songs pretty bland. It's here for "Christmas Day" and "Little Saint Nick" and the very real possibility that I just can't hear what everybody else does.
5. Vince Guaraldi Trio - A Charlie Brown Christmas
No depressing Christmas is complete without the most-depressing music for the most-depressing kids' cartoon ever. Make sure you're not close to alcohol or sharp objects before you press play.
6. Willie Nelson - Pretty Paper
Equally depressing as Guaraldi, and probably for fans only, but the album's emotional wallop actually comes from Nelson being very, very bored, very, very high, or both.
7. Emmylou Harris - Light of the Stable
Dolly Parton and Linda Rondstadt aren't particularly surprising cameos, but you have to sit up and take notice when they appear together - with Neil Young (on the title track).
8. John Fahey - Christmas with John Fahey (Vol. I and II), The New Possibility
Lovely but very hard to find. The good news: he's got a glut of Christmas songs and albums, and they're all lovely.
Numbers nine and 10? Still looking. Your suggestions, please.