2. Various artists, A Christmas Gift for You From Phil Spector (1963)
This album is a whole lot of people’s #1 pick, and for good reason. It’s basically perfect. Spector’s soaring, cathedral-like wall of sound is perfectly suited for the genre, and vocalists like Darlene Love and Ronnie Spector absolutely knock it out of the park—Love’s “Christmas (Baby Please Come Home)” might be the perfect Christmas pop song, and it’s certainly one of the greatest vocal performances ever.
The reason this isn’t my #1 is right there in the title: Phil Spector was an abusive piece of shit long before he was a murderer, and while that obviously doesn’t mean we can’t listen to and enjoy the incredible achievement of these musicians, I’d be lying if I said I was able to completely ignore his presence on this album. Not only did he put himself in the title, there’s also the final track—this is basically a perfect album, but it’s also a short one, and I deeply resent having to spend two of its precious 34 minutes listening to Phil Spector congratulate himself on having produced it. As the great Darlene Love says, we can always just not listen to that part, and obviously I skip the final track when I play it. But I shouldn’t have to skip a track on my favorite Christmas album.
(P.S. Ronnie Spector is currently finishing up a tour with a reformed Ronettes—read more about her, the ultimate rock’n’roll survivor, here.)