It’s that time of the year again, when we release the Bowers & Wilkins Christmas playlist – over 60 tunes curated to get you in the mood for the festive season, while also keeping a close eye on quality control.
You can access the updated festive playlist from one of four streaming services below or by using the Bowers & Wilkins Music app. And remember to opt for high-resolution options, because even at Christmas it’s important not to let the sound quality slip.Qobuz
Selecting these individual tracks got us thinking: what are the best Christmas albums of all time? Those records that go beyond the relatively easy single-track option and keep the Holiday vibe going across two sides of an LP. A few of them happen to be compilations, and lots of them have songs featured on our festive playlist, but hopefully there will be something new for you here… even if it happens to be old (we have plenty of offerings from the 1960s and even a couple from 1957!)
We picked a dozen Christmas crackers for you to enjoy!
The Beach Boys’ Christmas Album (1964)
The Beach Boys
Picture in your mind’s eye what the Beach Boys would sound like recording festive tunes and you won’t be a million miles off what this great album sounds like. Little Saint Nick is a stone-cold classic, but their trademark harmony heavy versions of White Christmas, Santa Clause is Coming To Town and more will quickly get you in the Holiday spirit, and you can even leave the CD in the player and see in the new year with their take on Auld Lang Syne.
James Brown’s Funky Christmas (1995)
Bring the funk this Holiday, with the Godfather of Soul himself! This sensational album is a curated selection of the best bits of the three James Brown Christmas albums he released back in the late 60 and early 70s. A heady mix of festive floor-fillers and equally danceable socially conscious groves, this album is guaranteed to get the party started. The fact that Brown died on Christmas Day 2006, makes this funky masterclass even more moving.
Ella Fitzgerald Wishes you a Swinging Christmas (1960)
No good Christmas album list would be complete without including the ‘Queen of Jazz’, Ella Fitzgerald. Recorded with a studio orchestra in 1960, Ella Fitzgerald Wishes you a Swinging Christmas perfectly pairs festive favourites with smoky jazz club ambience. Featuring songs such as Santa Claus Is Coming To Town, Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas, Rudolph The Red-Nosed Reindeer and others, this one feels truly authentic on every listen.
A Charlie Brown Christmas (1965)
This jazz classic is the soundtrack to the 1965 TV special of the same name, the first time Charlie Brown and friends appeared on screen. A mix of originals and jazzy takes on Holiday classics, it’s the perfect festive dinner party album. Plus it includes the simply sensational Linus And Lucy, the song that became synonymous with the Peanuts cartoon for all time.
Light of the Stable (1979)
Emmylou Harris’ Light of the Stable gives the perfect gift to anyone who loves country music and Christmas time. Now available in a remastered version, whilst retaining its rich, charming twang, this album features 13 unforgettable renditions of Christmas songs. Another detail that makes this a bona fide country-Christmas classic is the inclusion of backing vocals from genre icons Willie Nelson, Neil Young, and Dolly Parton.
Elvis’ Christmas Album (1957)
From the King of Rock and Roll himself, Elvis Presley, comes the long-standing mainstay in Christmas album rotation, Elvis’ Christmas Album. Whilst this record marked the third instalment of Presley’s studio album releases, it was the first Christmas offering by the late, great artist. Due to its popularity, Elvis’ Christmas Album has secured Diamond certification by the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) and, to date, is the best-selling Christmas album of all time in the U.S.
A Jolly Christmas From Frank Sinatra (1957)
The fact that this is album is 65 years old rather attests to its timeless nature! Who doesn’t want to hear Frank crooning away to O Little town of Bethlehem, Silent Night, Hark! The Herald Angels Sing and a Santa’s hat full of other Christmas crackers. It’s even split between secular Holiday tunes and traditional carols, so you can choose a side depending on your guests.
Sufjan Stevens Presents Songs for Christmas (2006)
Featuring five EPs of Sufjan Stevens’ Christmas-centric songs, Sufjan Stevens Presents Songs for Christmas is a must for lovers of dreamy guitars, atmospheric textures and melancholy vocals. Throughout this collection, Stevens reimagines some all-time favourites, including Silent Night, Jingle Bells, Amazing Grace and others, in his signature indie folk style. Not to mention, he sprinkles in a few of his own festive originals for good measure.
A Christmas Gift for You from Phil Spector (1963)
This Christmas classic is a festive slice or pure pop perfection. It captures The Crystals, The Ronettes and Darlene Love at their height, and is full of all the festive favourites your nan can get down to while you enjoy that wall of sound production. It’s not just a great Christmas album, it’s a sensational album full stop.
Soul Christmas – Stax 1968 (1968)
Much like the cold weather that’s synonymous with Christmas time (depending on where on the globe you’re based), this album will certainly keep you feeling cool as a cucumber. As the name suggests, it brims with soul from start to finish. Ultra-smooth jams are aplenty, featuring irresistible earworms from Clarence Carter, King Curtis, Otis Redding, Carla Thomas and others. So, kick back, relax and tune in now.
A Motown Christmas (1973)
Guaranteed to get you in the feel-good Christmas spirit, A Motown Christmas combines tracks from some of the most revered artists of all time. So, whether you’re after nostalgic hits from the likes of The Jackson 5 and Stevie Wonder or in the mood for sing-along classics from The Supremes and Marvin Gaye, this Christmas compilation has it all. A Motown Christmas was originally released back in 1973 and is now available to stream via the platform of your choice.
A Very Special Christmas (1987)
This album is a veritable who’s who of 1980s music stardom. U2, check, The Eurhythmics, check. Bon Jovi, check. Sting, Witney Houston, Madonna and Bryan Adams, check, check, check and check. Highlights include Bruce Springsteen’s live rendition of Merry Christmas Baby and Run DMC’s fantastic Christmas in Hollis. It’s a charity album that just keeps on giving!