BARRY COURTER: Lisa, when it comes to holiday music, do your tastes run more toward the ones that hit you in the feels or the ones that tickle your funny bone? In other words, Bing and Frank or Alvin and the Chipmunks?
LISA DENTON: Well, I really should put "The Chipmunk Song" on repeat because Christmas music often makes me cry. Or at least choke up. Sometimes I can barely get through "Silent Night" during the Christmas Eve candlelight service at church. And I was this way before I had reasons to cry at Christmas.
BARRY: It is hard to think of "Silent Night" without imagining little kids singing it at a church service. I don't mind the novelty songs. Once in a while. I never choose to hear them, and I tire quickly of them. I love Christmas music, however, even the ones I've heard a million times, and I like hearing the old classics done by new people.
What’s your favorite Christmas song?
We’ve chosen five each (and one honorable mention). Now tell us yours. Email Life@timesfreepress.com, or respond to this story online. We’ll run reader favorites next Sunday.
LISA: It depends on the song and the singer, of course. I don't mind hearing Gene Autry sing "Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer" more than once. And it's fun to hear John Denver and The Muppets do "Twelve Days of Christmas," especially can outshine Miss Piggy on "five gold rings."
The fun ones are a good antidote for the sappy or sacred ones. The sappiest one that ever got to me was a Garth Brooks rendition of "Silent Night." As I mentioned, that song is my button pusher, and Garth's version included a recitation about a Christmas when he was considering going home to Oklahoma for good because he wasn't making it in Nashville. The one and only time I ever heard it was years ago. I know it was before the merger of the two newspapers in 1999, because I have a vivid memory of pulling into the Times parking lot just before work and bawling about Garth and his sad Christmas. Maybe I'll write a song called "Silent Night Is Making Me a Hot Mess."
BARRY: Don't worry about Garth. He did OK. Even though I've heard "Silent Night" a bazillion times, it's still Top 5 for me. So is "White Christmas." Those are classics for me. I have a fairly large collection of Christmas albums ranging from "Merry Axemas — A Guitar Christmas" and Aimee Mann's "One More Drifter in the Snow." The She & Him Christmas album is good also.
But my favorite "new" holiday album is "I'm Coming Home for Christmas" by our own The Impressions. Reginald Torrian is the lead singer along with Fred Cash and Sam Gooden, and "Mary, Did you Know?" is just great. As a bonus, the album includes "Amen," by the way.
LISA: Amen to that.
BARRY: And I think we both agree that Paul McCartney, genius that he is, should apologize for sticking us with "Wonderful Christmas Time." Just awful.
LISA: Agreed. Hate it. No, make that haaaaaate it.
BARRY: We've now done four Music Wednesdays episodes featuring local artists such as Mitch Ryder, Dennis Haskins, Cody McCarver, Smith & Wesley, Jermaine Purifory, Kathy Webb, Call Me Spinster and many others. You can find the videos at https://youtu.be/mD5RkFfQgvo, https://youtu.be/hjMg5xTK1RI?list=PLUupQwQ6USzEcUxPhkcpBm9GPeYWzHVKE and https://youtu.be/Qw6g-QCKAb0
LISA: And readers can find all of our favorite Christmas songs (listed below in no particular order) with a YouTube or Google search. And if you read this story online, we've helpfully included the links, so all you have to do is click.
* "Carol of the Bells" by just about anyone.
Just this week, I saw a video of the Berea College Bluegrass Ensemble doing it. It's great.
* "Mary, Did You Know?" by The Impressions (2009).
Fred Cash and Sam Gooden made this album when Reggie Torian was the lead singer, and it is really good. This is a favorite.
* "White Christmas" by Bing Crosby (1942 original or the 1954 movie version).
I'm not crying. Stop looking at me.
* "You're a Mean One, Mr. Grinch" by Thurl Ravenscroft (1964). I didn't' realize what a traditionalist I am until putting this list together, but so be it. Did you know Ravenscroft also voices Tony the Tiger?
The Simon & Garfunkel version is pretty great as well, but these three are next level.
* "O Holy Night" by Steve Mauldin. It's so terrible, but it's not Christmas until I hear this every year now. The breath at the end is the ornament on top of the tree.
* "White Christmas" by The Drifters (1954).
Their version reminds me of the songs the Cosbys used to lip-sync to on "The Cosby Show." It's perfect for mimicry — high notes, low notes, doop-doops and wah-wahs. So much fun.
I first heard this version on the television special "Kelly Clarkson's Cautionary Christmas Music Tale," and was blown away. All three women are powerhouse vocalists, and this modern arrangement lets them sing lead and harmony on different verses, almost like a round. It's breathtaking. Quite possibly the best version of "Silent Night" ever recorded.
* "O Holy Night" by John Berry (1995).
Berry has become so identified with this song that he sings it at concerts year-round. His tenor voice sounds sweet and pure, and the piano and violin accompaniment is beautiful. I almost always cry — there I go again — when his voice rises on "Behold your King."
* "Santa Bring My Baby Back to Me" by Elvis Presley (1957).
Have to have some Elvis on my list. Of all his Christmas classics, this one is probably my favorite for the lively drumbeat that propels the song along. Makes me swivel my hips and curl my lip when I sing along.
I love the lyrics of this song, the way a night wind passes along news of the Birth to a little lamb, who passes it along to a shepherd boy, who relays it to a king, who tells the people. The music builds along with each message. Her singing is simple and straightforward. Perfection.
This one doesn't make the main list because I like to sing along and Jordan Smith's voice is impossible to match. But when I sing this song to reassure myself — you know, after "Silent Night" — it's this version I think of.