After seven albums, Chris Rea was finally beginning to get the hang of what makes a commercial success. He had not changed his style throughout the 1980s, but now it was 1985 and the synth pop sounds and new romantics were both long gone -- and in their place were stadium-filling anthemic rock or power ballads. Shamrock Diaries was a mix of soft ballads like "Chisel Hill" and "One Golden Rule" along with saxophone-led uptempo numbers such as the title track and the feel-good song of the summer, "All Summer Long," which would have made an ideal single had Magnet decided to release it. Shamrock Diaries was written very much with family in mind, particularly considering the two singles released: "Stainsby Girls" was a tribute to his wife, Joan, who had attended Stainsby Secondary Modern School; and "Josephine" was written for his eldest daughter. The opening track, "Steel River," was rather hard to define, being a soft piano-led ballad until the first chorus kicked in and the song revealed gospel roots, but by the time the second chorus came along it had become a jazz jam. This was followed by "Stainsby Girls," easily the most like Bruce Springsteen that Rea had ever sounded -- and it became his first Top 30 single since "Fool If You Think It's Over" from the late '70s. However, Chris Rea saved the best track until the end: the slow-building "Hired Gun," over eight minutes of brooding menace.
AllMusic Review by Sharon Mawer