Since the beginning of October I have been listening to Christmas music. All kinds too – from Country and Metal to Soul and Hip-Hop and everything in between. It’s really absurd and now that I see the words in black and white, it’s also embarrassing. I need an ugly sweater and some felt reindeer antlers then I will be an official holiday disaster.

At first it was just for fun, then it turned into some kind of musical anthropological research. I have forced this “research” upon my family over the last week or so with little resistance. What I have found is that the number of different versions and interpretations of the same songs is staggering. It seems like everyone who has ever sold an album/CD/MP3 has also recorded a Christmas CD, or at least a song for a compilation. The classics abound but there are some people who have done some unique not-as-crappy-as-others stuff.

The following are, for whatever reason, songs that stand out for me. Click on the links and get in the spirit, darnit:

The Christmas Song – Yep, 4.3 million people have covered this song, but the Brian McKnight version, to me, is second to only Nat king Cole’s rendition. He really dusted off this song and made it his own. But then again I am a shameless long-time McKnight fan so, other than Gemini, he does no wrong. Then end is the best part and probably the reason that your local lite music station doesn’t play it.

That Spirit of Christmas – The first time I heard this Ray Charles tune it was like hearing Ray for the first time. It took me back to a time when my family was not dispersed and stressed. To a time when Christmas meant car loads of family pulling up to Ma’s house to eat, sing, tell jokes, and be together. Few songs take you to a comfy place like this one.

River – The original Joni Mitchell version is the best, but there are two or three remakes that I like too. It’s a song that I have heard over and over again, and I am still picking up on nuances.