Saturday, November 28, 2015

Elizabeth Chan: "Red & Green"

Elizabeth Chan is the hardest working Christmas Music Artist in the land.  Is she the only "Christmas Music Artist", exclusively dedicated to the holiday genre, around?  She might be.  There are a lot of indie artists out in Noisetrade/Bandcamp land that may have only released Christmas records, but it's safe to say that Elizabeth Chan has attained heights as a Christmas recording artist that are unparalleled.

Christmas blog readers know Elizabeth's story by now - gave up a Conde Nast career to focus exclusively on Christmas music - writing and recording.  She released the EP "Naughty and Nice" followed by albums "Everyday Holidays" in 2013 and "Christmas in the City" in 2014.  Well, Elizabeth is back this year with "Red & Green", an album of 12 songs, some new, some remixes of earlier releases, and some revisited from earlier albums, making "Red & Green" sort of a 'greatest hits plus new material' CD for your holiday collection.

The song "Red & Green" is the first single release from the album.  It continues the trend of blending catchy pop melodies and snappy beats, with lyrics that leave no doubt that this is a Christmas song.  "Red & Green" has solid pop sensibilities that make for great, ear-catching airplay when it comes across your radio.  It has musical depth in its arrangement, featuring Elizabeth's energetic vocals, super backup singers, and a fine helping of sleigh bells.

Also new is"What Sweeter Music", an adaption of the 17th century poem by Robert Herrick.  Slower in tempo and driven by piano and cello, this lyrically modernized version is perhaps Elizabeth's best recording to date.  It's a beautiful song, effusively blooming with the spirit of Christmas.  The heart of the poem is retained:

                                      Awake the Voice, Awake the String
                                      Heart and ear and eye and everything

and Elizabeth's expanded lyrics and moving, subtle arrangement make this a personal favorite, as it respects the original work while making it accessible to a 21st century audience.

Another favorite of mine from the album is the orchestral remix of "A Christmas Song".  Already a fave, the orchestral cut breathes new life into "A Christmas Song", a superbly successful composition that blends together snippets of verse from our favorite Christmas classics.  In my opinion, there are two very challenging avenues of Christmas song writing.  First, writing an homage to the Christmas canon and including lyrics and phrases from the best-known holiday songs without sounding repetitive and thrown together.  Elizabeth has done that with "A Christmas Song" by channeling her songwriting skills but also by making the song personal.  Her songs come from her heart first, before traveling through her brain and out of her songwriter's hands.

The second challenge is writing a song about Christmas in a city (insert your city here: ______) without sounding trite and cliche.  As I noted in last year's review "Christmas in the City" succeeds here where so many other songs fail.  It's a beautiful Christmas song about New York City, once again coming from Elizabeth's heart.  It's inclusion on "Red & Green" will serve as a great way for new listeners to fully appreciate her talent.

Each year, Elizabeth takes new steps toward her goal of creating a classic Christmas song.  Her presence on Christmas music radio (traditional and satellite) grows each season, and soon I think you'll hear her more and more as you tune in to your holiday music station of choice, especially the ones whose programmers will add new artists into the mix with the standards.  "Red & Green" is a joyous album of Christmas music, excellent for new Chan fans, and a great addition for those of us who have followed her career from the beginning.

Elizabeth Chan website
Merry Bright Music website

"Red & Green" available at all the usual music retailers.

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