Top 15 Pop Christmas Albums of All Time

Mariah Carey at Beacon Theatre
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John Denver - A Rocky Mountain Christmas (1975)

John Denver Rocky Mountain Christmas
John Denver - Rocky Mountain Christmas. Courtesy RCA

Singer-songwriter John Denver was at the peak of his career when the Christmas season of 1975 rolled around.  He had just released two consecutive #1 albums and two gold-certified #1 singles "Thank God I'm a Country Boy" and "I'm Sorry." Delivering classic songs in John Denver's inimitable homespun style, A Rocky Mountain Christmas quickly became a favorite and has sold more than two million copies. New re-recorded versions of the songs "Aspenglow" and "Please Daddy (Don't Get Drunk This Christmas)" from earlier albums are included. John Denver's next holiday album, 1979's A Christmas Together with the Muppets is also considered a Christmas classic.

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George Winston - December (1982)

George Winston December
George Winston - December. Courtesy Windham Hill

In the early 1980s pianist George Winston became a very unlikely music superstar. As one of the key artists recording for the Windham Hill label, he helped define the sound of new age music. December is one of four seasonal solo piano albums he has released.  It is a contemplative tribute to winter sounds including holiday music. The album has sold more than three million copies. His music helped pave the way for many other Windham Hill artists to earn national notice.

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The Carpenters - Christmas Portrait (1978)

Carpenters Christmas Portrait
Carpenters - Christmas Portrait. Courtesy A&M Records

The Carpenters' popularity was definitely beginning to fade by the time they put together this first Christmas collection. They would only have one more top 40 pop hit after release of Christmas Portrait in 1978. This album includes the duo's classic "Merry Christmas, Darling." The album has sold over a million copies and today is one of the best loved Carpenters albums. The cover art designed by Robert Tanenbaum is modeled after Norman Rockwell's painting "Triple Self-Portrait" done for the Saturday Evening Post in 1960. In a list put together in 2014, Christmas Portrait was one of the top 25 selling holiday albums in the SoundScan era even though it was released 13 albums before that era began in 1991. One more Carpenters Christmas album was released in 1984 after the death of Karen Carpenter. It is titled An Old-Fashioned Christmas.

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The Beach Boys - The Beach Boys' Christmas Album (1964)

Beach Boys Christmas Album
The Beach Boys - The Beach Boys' Christmas Album. Courtesy Capitol

California surf pop and Christmas music may not seem to go together on first thought. However, the Beach Boys didn't let that stand in their way. Coming just months after their first #1 pop hit single "I Get Around," The Beach Boy's Christmas Album, featuring their classic originals "Little Saint Nick" and "The Man With all The Toys," quickly became a holiday favorite. The group's leader Brian Wilson was influenced by the success of Phil Spector's A Christmas Gift for You released a year earlier. The album reached #6 on the overall album chart and was certified gold for sales. A later Christmas album titled Merry Christmas from the Beach Boys and recorded in 1977 was rejected by the group's record label. 

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Bing Crosby - White Christmas (1945)

Bing Crosby White Christmas
Bing Crosby - White Christmas. Courtesy MCA

Bing Crosby's recording of the song "White Christmas" is considered the bestselling single of all time having sold over 50 million copies worldwide. This album was first put together in 1945 when it was released as 10 songs on five 78 rpm discs. It reached #1 on the national album chart. The album was released as a standard vinyl LP for the first time in 1955. The album includes guest appearances by the Andrews Sisters on three tracks. White Christmas has remained in print ever since and is considered the longest in-print album in the US except for the original cast recording of the musical Oklahoma! which was first released in 1943. The album first became available on compact disc in 1986.

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Barbra Streisand - A Christmas Album (1967)

Barbra Streisand Christmas Album
Barbra Streisand - A Christmas Album. Courtesy Columbia

Barbra Streisand was a young traditional pop phenomenon in 1967 having released eight consecutive tops 10 albums in four years. Her first Christmas album has become a classic selling more than five million copies. She kicks it off with a humorous version of "Jingle Bells" and then simply sings classics with her trademark stunning vocals. A Christmas Album did not qualify for the overall album chart in 1967 and instead was listed on Billboard's special holiday album chart where it spent five consecutive weeks at #1. This was Barbara Streisand's last album to be released in both mono and stereo versions.

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Nat King Cole - The Christmas Song (1963)

Nat King Cole The Christmas Song
Nat King Cole - The Christmas Song. Courtesy Capitol

Nat King Cole first recorded "The Christmas Song" in 1946. However, it is his 1961 recording that was later added to a holiday album of the same name that is best known. Except for "The Christmas Song," the content of this album was released as an earlier 1960 holiday album called The Magic of Christmas. However, with the success of "The Christmas Song," Nat King Cole's version of "God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen" was removed and replaced by "The Christmas Song." The song and album became even more popular following Cole's death from lung cancer in 1965.

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Elvis Presley - Elvis' Christmas Album (1957)

Elvis Christmas Album
Elvis Presley - Elvis' Christmas Album. Courtesy RCA

Elvis Presley was the hottest recording artist in the US having released nine #1 singles and three #1 albums in two years when he put together his first Christmas album. The collection spent four weeks at the top of the album chart and, with sales in excess of ten million copies, it is considered the bestselling Christmas album of all time in the US. Songwriter Irving Berlin stated that Elvis' recording of "White Christmas" was a profane parody of the song, and it was ordered off a number of radio stations. Elvis Presley's version of "Blue Christmas" on this album is considered a holiday classic. The original album included eight Christmas song and four gospel songs originally released on the EP Peace In the Valley. Elvis Presley did not release another holiday album until 1971's Elvis Sings The Wonderful World of Christmas.

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Mannheim Steamroller - Mannheim Steamroller Christmas (1984)

Mannheim Steamroller Christmas
Mannheim Steamroller - Mannheim Steamroller Christma. Courtesy American Gramaphone

Producer and composer Chip Davis first became known in the music industry for helping create the musical personality C.W. McCall for singer Bill Fries. C.W. McCall went all the way to #1 on the pop singles chart with the CB radio themed song "Convoy." Davis put together his own record label, American Gramaphone, to release a combination of classical music and light jazz under the pseudonym Mannheim Steamroller in 1975. The album was Fresh Aire and became one of the prototypes for new age music. In 1984 Mannheim Steamroller released this Christmas album, its first holiday collection, and found its true niche as a recording act. Mannheim Steamroller has now released eight platinum certified Christmas collections. The group is credited with overall sales of albums approaching 30 million in the US alone, most of that is holiday music.

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Michael Buble - Christmas (2011)

Michael Buble Christmas
Michael Buble - Christmas. Courtesy Reprise

In 2011 following three consecutive multi-platinum studio albums and two that went all the way to #1 on the album chart, singer Michael Buble released his first full-length holiday collection. Co-produced by David Foster it quickly became a smash hit and has sold over three million copies. It hit #1 on the overall album chart and was the second bestselling album of the year in 2011. In 2012 Christmas was the second bestselling holiday album of the year selling an additional 600,000 copies. All of the songs are classics except the one new song "Cold December Night" co-written by Michael Buble himself. Country star Shania Twain, retro trio the Puppini Sisters, and Latin star Thalia all make guest appearances.

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Mariah Carey - Merry Christmas (1994)

Mariah Carey Merry Christmas
Mariah Carey - Merry Christmas. Courtesy Sony

Mariah Carey had released three multi-platinum albums and was riding high with the success of Music Box that spent eight weeks at #1 on the album chart and ultimately was certified ten times platinum when she decided to record a Christmas collection. Mariah Carey worked with a variety of producers, and, in the album's first run on the charts, it peaked at #3. The album includes the song "All I Want for Christmas Is You" which is considered a contemporary Christmas classic. It is the first holiday song to sell a million digital downloads. Mariah Carey released a second Christmas album Merry Christmas II You in 2010. It included a re-recorded version of "All I Want for Christmas Is You."

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Josh Groban - Noel (2007)

Josh Groban Noel
Josh Groban - Noel. Courtesy Reprise

Pop-classical singer Josh Groban had already released three multi-platinum top 10 albums before putting together Noel, his first Christmas collection in 2007. The result was the sleeper hit album of the year. It was produced by David Foster, known for his big pop productions with such stars as Whitney Houston and Celine DionNoel hit #1 on the pop album chart in the US seven weeks after its initial release. It became the first Christmas album to ever spend five weeks at #1 on the album chart. By the end of 2007, the album had sold over 3.5 million copies making it the biggest selling album of the year. Noel was also the bestselling holiday album of 2008 selling nearly one million additional copies.

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Vince Guaraldi Trio - A Charlie Brown Christmas (1965)

Vince Guaraldi A Charlie Brown Christmas
Vince Guaraldi - A Charlie Brown Christmas. Courtesy Fantasy

Lee Mendelson, producer of the A Charlie Brown Christmas TV special heard a recording of "Cast Your Fate to the Wind" by Vince Guaraldi's Trio while riding in a taxicab in San Francisco. Mendelson was put in touch with Guaraldi and he made the proposition that Vince Guaraldi create the score for the upcoming Peanuts special. The results were such a success that Guaraldi ended up composing scores for 16 Peanuts TV specials. Among the legendary songs created are "Linus and Lucy," "Christmas Time Is Here," and "Skating." The album has sold more than three million copies and ranks as one of the top 10 selling holiday albums since SoundScan began tracking sales in 1991, 26 years after the initial release of the album. The Vince Guaraldi Trio's A Charlie Brown Christmas has been inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame and listed on the Library of Congress' National Recording Registry.

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Various Artists - A Very Special Christmas (1987)

Various Artists A Very Special Christmas
Various Artists - A Very Special Christmas. Courtesy A&M

This was the first in a series of Christmas albums put together to benefit Special Olympics. The overall series has raised over $55 million for the cause. Artist Keith Haring contributed the cover art to this first collection. The project was overseen by producer Jimmy Iovine. The collection features a significant number of the top pop artists of the 1980s. Among the most celebrated recordings here are the Eurythmics' "Winter Wonderland," Whitney Houston's "Do You Hear What I Hear?," Sting's "Gabriel's Message," and Run-D.M.C.'s "Christmas in Hollis." The collection has sold more than 2.5 million copies and spawned a series of nine additional collections.

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Various Artists - A Christmas Gift for You from Phil Spector (1963)

Various Artists Phil Spector A Christmas Gift For You
Various Artists - A Christmas Gift For You from Phil Spector. Courtesy Sony

At the peak of his success on the pop charts with his trademark "wall of sound" production technique, Phil Spector put together this Christmas collection by four of his top recording acts. The Crystals, Ronettes, Darlene Love, and Bob B. Soxx and the Blue Jeans each contributed their versions of mostly secular Christmas songs. The album had the misfortune of being released the same day as the assassination of President John F. Kennedy and was a relative failure upon initial release peaking at #13 on the album chart. However, over time it has been recognized as perhaps the top Christmas album and one of the top overall pop-rock albums of all time. When the collection was reissued in 1972, it reached #6 on the Billboard holiday album chart. Darlene Love's "Christmas (Baby Please Come Home)" is particularly revered.

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