Chris Rea

Chris Rea

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Though Chris Rea has been around for nearly 25 years now, it's good to go back to his beginnings as a songwriter and guitarist who carved out a niche for himself with a late-night brand of very British formalist rock & roll that owes as much to J.J. Cale as it does to Dire Straits. But it's the late-night sound that is his trademark and it was in evidence on this, his very first outing. He has help from drummer Dave Mattacks, keyboardist Pete Wingfield, percussionist Ray Cooper, bassist Dave Paton, and a host of other dignitaries. What separates Rea, and did from the very beginning, is his belief in having his songs finished by the time they were pressed and out the door. The production here by Rea and Jon Kelly takes nothing in the music industry into account. His romantic vision, his understated execution, and his unflinchingly honest lyrics reveal a young man who could have been a huge pop star on this side of the Atlantic if the Yanks had only gotten a hold of him before everything changed a year or two later. As it stands, he made his name in the British Isles largely from the beginning. Tracks such as "If You Choose to Go," with its lovely slide run and backing chorus humming over the heartbroken lyric -- this is what Paul Kelly always attempted but was too wimpy to pull off -- are in the pocket of laid-back tearjerkers with class and sheen. And, of course, there's "Every Beat of My Heart," covered by virtually everyone from Eric Clapton to Kelly himself, and considered once by Van Morrison. With a gorgeous string arrangement by Andrew Powell, one can picture the late Jim Reeves singing this song as easily as Jennifer Warnes and Joe Cocker. There's also the funk-lite number "Do It for Your Love" that, despite it's slim, funky riff, stands as a great pop song that Boz Scaggs would have killed to have written. There simply isn't a weak track on this slick little masterpiece that established Rea as one of our quirkiest, most commercially viable, if obscure, cult pop icons.

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