There is no shortage of Christmas albums available to the consuming public. While most merely recreate the classics for living room listeners, fewer make an effort to truly reimagine the Great American Christmas Songbook. Alan Chang, currently on tour with Michael Buble, has repainted eleven classics on his own special canvas.
After a brief opening track, Cold December Night kicks off with “I Saw Three Ships.” The delicate acoustic guitar coupled with spritely horn accents begins the album with a demure folk interpretation, a style that Chang favors throughout the album.
Next, Chang moves into neo-lounge territory with “Joy to the World.” Casio-keyboard backbeat coupled with jazzy piano and poppy hooks makes this an unexpected but welcome shift. Chang shows that he is unafraid of pushing the envelope for what most people expect from a Christmas album.
The title track “Cold December Night” brings in distorted electric guitar, rock drums, and layered vocal harmonies. Chang swells with crescendo here before moving into his meandering version of “Frosty the Snowman.” Finding sweetness in textual painting, Chang goes for a meditative fade-out of “thumpity thump thump” to signal Frosty’s departure. Subtle yet darling.
And who say’s Christmas can’t get country? “Come Thou Font Every Blessing” features a full choir, banjo, and slide guitar. Lush with harmony, this track remains angelic while adding a hint of front porch twang. The album closes out with the calm tones of “The First Noel” and “Silent Night”.
Cold December Night falls somewhere between Michael Buble and Sufjan Stevens. It’s just indie enough for your hipster friend’s ironic ugly sweater party but not so far from the classics that your grandma won’t enjoy it too. There are plenty of Christmas albums out there that you could throw on for this season’s holiday parties, but f you’re looking for something that will raise a pleased eyebrow from your guests, look no further than Cold December Night.
- Ben Anshutz
It's getting to be that time of year when no matter what store you go into, and God help you if you go into a mall, you're going to be hearing Christmas music. It's such a sound of the times that I don't get grouchy about it like some people. There's something home-y and comforting about the old holiday standards that remind you, even when you live in a place where it's usually 50 degrees and sunny on
Christmas day like I do, that it really is that time of year. But still, we aim to do things differently here,
a little off the beaten path, and so I offer Alan Chang's Cold December Night as my gift to all of you.
A collection of 11 holiday tunes put together by both present and former members of Michael Buble's
band, the underlying concept of the album is a kind of indie, folksy, but also kind of woebegone
arrangements. There's emotion in these songs, sometimes painful ones, that gets through despite the
hokeyness of their source material. Sometimes it feels like a fairly natural interpretation of the song,
as in the case of “It's Beginning to Look a Lot Like Christmas,” which if you'll forgive the pun, has a
pleasant, Decemberists-style sound to it. Other songs don't quite make the translation so well, as how
anything other than cringe-worthy cheeseballing can come through in a song like “Rudolph the Red-
Nosed Reindeer,” which is a shame because the instrumental composition to that song is nothing short
The collection is mostly downtempo, fairly relaxing, but not merely relegated to background music
while the presents get ripped open. There's a strong presence of every instrument, of every section, on
every track. It's hard not to get a Ben Folds vibe sometimes, the way it's simultaneously able to make
you snicker at the very idea or break your heart depending on which way each note strikes you. The
juxtaposition of familiar Christmas songs with arrangements better suited to something other than
holiday cheer works, make no mistake. This is music for a House, M.D. Christmas special, something
to spike your egg nog to when nothing else in the house is stirring.
Doing a Christmas song or cover is enough of a daunting task. If you're lucky, you might make
a “Jingle Bell Rock”, and if you're unlucky, you might draw the ire of most people who are sick
to death of hearing “Grandma Got Run Over By a Reindeer”. But Alan Chang's Cold December
Night maintains a sincerity throughout, bringing a touch of human reality to the idealized Christmas
landscape. It's a prerequisite that you can at least tolerate a hint of Christmas music to get into it, but
the moody, jazzy reinterpretations that make up this album might be enough to help you get through the
stress, anxiety, and seasonal affective disorders that make up the holiday season.
- Michael Radon
Cold December Night is an era appropriate and almost post-modern
take on Christmas’ most popular ballads. Alan Chang, best known
for his writing partnership with Michael Buble, produced a Christmas
album that is doused with comforting folk and classical touches, and
also with fresh and sometimes soulful seasonings, especially with
ballads like “It’s Beginning to Look A Lot Like Christmas” and “Joy to
Chang’s exploratory renditions of eleven classic Christmas songs are
not so over produced that they threaten the integrity of the ballads,
but are composed through new lenses, which bring the songs up
to date. Cold December Night is romantic, mature, and appealing
to anyone who is interested in listening to millennium inspired
It should also be recognized that Michael Buble’s touring band, past
and present, all lent Alan Chang a hand by playing, arranging, and
singing on all of the tracks on the album. His musical team was
instrumentally well organized, and because of this, the album is a
success, when without the correct chemistry and taste, could have
been an epic fail.
Cold December Night is worthy of any Christmas party or gift. Alan
Chang and his band of musicians composed an album that is full of
talent and class.
- Jordannah Elizabeth, The Examiner (Nov 2011)
Jazz musician Alan Chang, most noted for his collaboration with Michael Bublé, fashions a memorable
exploration on his Christmas debut. Cold December Night is a contemporary holiday album with
refreshing editions to the Season’s most treasured tunes where jazz and folk sparkle.
Pianos softly unfold the album like Winter’s first snow on “Opening (It’s Beginning to Look A Lot Like
Christmas).” The traditional folk ballad, “I Saw Three Ships” stands still in time as the all-encompassing
voyage accompanies the listener with attractive strings, building into a boisterous brass beauty
as lyrics evoke sweet sentiments. Next, an electronic touch on “Joy to the World” freshens up the
Christmas classic while the paired tip-toed ivories balance the melancholic violins on “Rudolph the
Red Nosed Reindeer”— a lingering heart-felt composition that would suffice solely as an instrumental.
Chang scores on the title track with its memorable chorus, evoking emotions with sensory lyrics;
revealing the true meaning of Christmas, “It won’t be wrapped under a tree; I want something that
lasts forever.” Woodwinds are highlighted on “Frosty the Snowman” in between nostalgic organ
riffs alluding innocence then “Silver Bells” brightly shines with a propelled Charlie Brown-like piano.
The timeless “Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing” offers female prowess on the hymnal splendor of
yesteryear, as the folky twang of banjos adds a sense of longing. A haunting acoustic framework on “The
First Noel” beautifully laces around echoed synths for a somber touch, melting into “The Silent Night,”
aptly concluding the album where a seducing saxophone transcends.
Without impeding the truth that lies within each ballad, Alan Chang preserves tradition as a sense of
renewal promotes Cold December Night to be the perfect Christmas album for generations old and new.
- Melissa Caruso