Chris Elliott,
Satellite UFO Jet Plane or Star
(self-produced, 2005)

In this intriguingly-titled debut recording, Boston singer-songwriter Chris Elliott establishes himself as an engaging new voice on the contemporary acoustic scene.

In keeping with the CD's title, Elliott's lyrics are often quirky and provocative. He takes on big subjects without seeming to take himself too seriously, which makes the CD a refreshing listen. One song starts out with the repeated words "Birth! School! Work! Death!" in a heavy rock-inspired tone of mock seriousness. Other tracks take a somewhat intellectual approach ("Stalin loved American cowboy movies/which he cursed, analyzed/from a Marxist perspective") but sail along on a summery bed of rhythm guitar and pleasant melodies. Elliott's voice has a sweet and conversational quality that is always likeable.

Occasionally I worried that Elliott's songs might slip into the journal-entry variety -- and how many good songwriters don't have a few of those? But clearly he's aware of this potential trap, giving even "Heavy Metal Dayz" ("Back in the days before throwing up lost its glamour") a serious undertone beneath the frat-boy persona.

He confirms his true identity as a mature songwriter in the next track, "Rose for a Blue Jay," a delightful love song that won the Portland Songwriters Association Songwriting Contest in the folk acoustic category. "Promise me Ann Marie/Falling like mercury/Love that's in vain but in time/A snapshot on Sunday/A rose for a blue jay/A heart no border will ever confine." "Everything But You" is another fine ballad that showcases Elliott's talent for melody and his sensitive vocal delivery.

Another highlight for me is "Promises, Promises," in which Elliott complains about a Jehovah's Witness at the door ("Was waitin' for the pizza man just mindin' my business/When up to the door comes a Jehovah's Witness/He said, 'Are you ready for the coming of Jesus?'/I said, 'No, I'm just waitin' for a pepperoni pizza'"). It has a Barenaked Ladies-style glee to it, and is (like the Ladies' songs) very well written and witty.

The CD has a radio-friendly, polished appeal. In addition to Elliott, the album features Dave Lowe (drums), Marc Friedman and Mark Reimold (bass), Nolan McKelvy (upright bass), Lisa Austin (a longtime collaborator, on harmonies) and several other fine musicians.

Good luck to you, hardworking and talented songwriter Chris Elliott! May your career shine brightly, like -- well, like a satellite, ufo, jet plane or (hopefully) star.

by Joy McKay
17 September 2005

[ visit the artist's website ]