Christmas Albums: 12 great picks

Lana Del Rey’s live “Christmas” show in Madison Square Garden consisted mostly of the 29-year-old singing Led Zeppelin’s “Seven Steps to Heaven” in English — so she naturally revisited the song a bit while performing the album it appeared on, 2012’s “Born to Die.” Her version of “Baby It’s Cold Outside” was the hit Christmas song we all wish we could have sung to our better half.

Christmas songs can be terrific or terrible. But at their best, holiday music is playful and rarefied, drawing listeners into a realm without a visible calendar or outside stimuli. We don’t hear about carols until Dec. 12, we celebrate the season with friends and maybe never hear anything that sounds remotely like a stranger trying to cajole us into getting our phone out of our pocket, and by that time we’ve likely hit our pinnacles of light, keeping the party going at a steady even keel while figuring out how to keep everyone’s stomachs from lurching. It’s a lot of the time when the reason you actually like this tradition is that you can’t fathom any other way of celebrating the holidays.

We’ve looked for 12 albums that get at some of the joys of the season, but we left off the albums that combine holiday records with adult contemporary hits. (It’s basically all about the hits for this group.) And here’s a 13th: Aretha Franklin did herself proud with her 1985 album, “Silver Bells.” Franklin performed songs on the record that were even better for a whole lot of people to sing along to at Christmas time. If you missed the performance on ABC’s “The Wonderful World of Disney Holiday Spectacular” or the 1984 TV special, there are quite a few performances of these holiday classics on “Silver Bells.” You can also get together with your family and friends and create a Christmas card and the whole thing is a moody and seductive set.

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