Though he had already cut a single, "So Much Love," for Magnet Records in 1975, this was Chris Rea's first full-length album. While "So Much Love" had basically disappeared quickly upon its release, the song "Fool (If You Think It's Over)" from Whatever Happened to Benny Santini? became his largest hit, especially in the U.S., where it was nominated for a Grammy (though it didn't win). Often the hit song from an album is not the best. In this case, though, it is. The rest of the album is somewhat mediocre, with too-polished production. Though Rea reportedly wasn't overly happy with the sound of the album, he did end up using the same producer for his next album, Deltics. The songs on Benny Santini are a mix of well-crafted, if unexciting, guitar rock pop songs and wistful ballads similar to, but not as strong as, "Fool (If You Think It's Over)." What makes the album stand out from similar late-'70s middle-of-the-road rock pop is Rea's voice. A gravelly, warm baritone, it's got a sort of Joe Cocker sound to it. A track like "Because of You" is made all the more touching by the emotiveness inherent in his voice. The album title refers to a name that Magnet Records was considering christening Rea with as a way to make him more spiffy sounding -- sort of the "John Cougar syndrome" that record labels sometimes have.
AllMusic Review by Rob Caldwell