Chris Rea

Water Sign

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Chris Rea remained one of the best-kept secrets in the music industry, releasing five albums between 1979 and 1983, none of them reaching even the Top 50 in the charts. All were very well received by both the critics and the public who knew the secret. His secret was a brand of late-night rock that had an element of class, not dissimilar at this stage of his career to the early-'80s Dire Straits albums, but totally out of step, and proudly so, with the music of the time -- new romantic, power and synth pop. He opened the album Water Sign with the song "Nothing's Happening by the Sea," which was so far laid back it was almost horizontal, with a harmonica instrumental break, and the album closed with a nod to synth pop on the track "Out of the Darkness." "Love's Strange Ways" was a similarly slow-moving Dire Straits-style number with an acoustic guitar picking out some notes throughout the song. "Let It Loose" had a driving rock beat, as did "I Can Hear Your Heartbeat," the only single taken from Water Sign. The record company needn't have bothered, however, as the single peaked at a miserable number 65. By the time Rea got around to releasing a hits compilation, this track was radically remixed with a slick guitar added and less of the drum machine. One track, "Texas," was to become popular via radio play in the States but also as music played at Texas Rangers baseball games, and Rea would revisit and re-record this song for his most successful commercial album, The Road to Hell, at the end of the decade. One day soon, a lot more people would discover Chris Rea, but in the meantime, in the era of Water Sign he remained a relative mystery.

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