Gimme five... Christmas albums

Christmas is a time for family, giving and generosity of spirit. But the Yuletide also makes us do strange and even awful things.

<i>24 Disney Christmas Favourites</i>.
24 Disney Christmas Favourites

Like emptying our wallets on dolls that talk and excrete strange substances. Sharing meals with family members we spend the rest of the year trying to avoid. And listening to Christmas music by artists we would otherwise scoff at.

In some families there's a deep sense of tradition and nostalgia attached to daggy Christmas albums – and certain festive corkers must be played as the tree goes up or as Christmas lunch is served.

<i>Merry Christmas</i>, by Mariah Carey.
Merry Christmas, by Mariah Carey. 

For other families the soundtrack changes annually, and a new Christmas compilation is routinely purchased every year (perhaps from the bottom of a bargain bin.)

Whichever category you and your family fall into, here are five (daggy? you be the judge) Christmas albums that should be in your collection. 

<i>Love Actually </i>soundtrack.
Love Actually soundtrack. 

24 Disney Christmas Favourites (1988)

If there is one photo that can rival for awkwardness the nude baby shot, it's those Christmas morning snaps – unwrapping pressies, still in unwittingly-embarrassing pyjamas, with raw emotions (good and bad) captured forever on youthful faces.

This CD is the soundtrack to those early years. There is the sickening sweetness of Mickey, the playful banter between the Chipmunks, Donald Duck's comical off-key squawking, and the all-together-now challenge of theTwelve Days of Christmas. Littered with jokes, it's an all-round crowd pleaser, guaranteed to jazz up any Christmas do.

Sadly, despite much searching, this particular Australian release can't be found anywhere. Keep a sharp eye out in second-hand stores, because you can't have my copy!

<i>Snowfall</i>, by Tony Bennett.
Snowfall, by Tony Bennett. 

Merry Christmas, Mariah Carey (1994)

This album was recorded at the height of Carey's fame and with cover art featuring the singer in a fur-lined, figure-hugging red onesie – it was always going to be a hit, right?

<i>We Wish You A Merry Christmas</i>.
We Wish You A Merry Christmas

Piped out across shopping centres each year without fail, if you don't own it you've at least heard it. The album went platinum four times in Australia and five times in the US. Once upon a time there was even a Christmas film adaptation planned for the album. Oh Mariah. What happened?

Love Actually soundtrack (2003)

Say what you will about Love Actually as a film, the soundtrack isn't such a bad Christmas compromise. Sure, there's the grating Christmas is All Around, banged out by Bill Nighy/washed-up-rocker Billy Mack, as well as the obligatory anthem All I Want for Christmas – but this album also offers up some great variations on the film's other theme: love. This is the CD you can safely pop in the player on Christmas Day, and still get to hear great non-Christmas classics like All You Need is Love, God Only Knows, and the gorgeous voices of Eva Cassidy and Joni Mitchell. It treads the line perfectly between joyous, seasonal, and pious Chrissy-pop, and quality year-round tunes to rest your festively battered ear drums.

Snowfall: The Tony Bennett Christmas Album (1968)

Still going strong in 2012, Tony Bennett has sold more than 50 million albums world-wide.

And I'd bet a good little chunk of those sales are made at Christmas time.

Still available today on iTunes, Snowfall features Bennett's iconic renditions of White Christ-mas and Walking in a Winter Wonderland, set to lavish orchestral scores with smooth jazz sympathies. Heavy with the pizzazz that typifies most of Bennett's work these tracks are ubiquitous Christmas fare, and a surefire way to bring a little New York glamour to a backyard Chrissy barbecue.

We Wish You a Merry Christmas, Various (1978)

Released on vinyl in 1978, this album is a moment of Motown brilliance. Featuring Christmas tunes by the likes of Stevie Wonder, the Jackson Five, the Supremes and the Temptations, you're guaranteed to feel at least 20 per cent more soulful after a listen.

This album was a staple of my Yuletide youth. Every Christmas I bless my parents for having such superb taste in music. Although I'm sure my sister and I damaged several turntable needles trying to put this LP on with sticky, pudding-caked fingers.

The best tracks by a Motown mile are One Little Christmas Tree by Stevie Wonder, and Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer by the Temptations. These and many of the other tracks are available individually through iTunes. Shout yourself a little Christmas gift and download at least two.