Thursday, 17 March 2011

She said "Son, what are you doing here? My fear for you has turned me in my grave" I said "Mama, I come to the valley of the rich myself to sell" She said "Son, this is the road to Hell"

Album of the week

“The Road to Hell” by Chris Rea (1988)

Chris Rea has one of those voices, you know, like Tom Wait or that guy in the Crash Test Dummies, what is his name? oh ya Brad Roberts (you know, The Superman song, it’s been a long time!) You either like these kinds of baritones or you can’t stand them. I take them in context – but only if the song is good!

Since I first heard the teenage lament “(Fool) If You Think It’s Over”, I thought this guy had something going on. Advice to a teenager that life will go on, there are other fish in the sea, you will find another love, etc. “Dyin’ flame, you’re free again, Who could love do that to you? Remember that?  It got nominated for a Grammy that year, but did not win. Not bad for a first effort.

Eight albums in the 80’s did not bring him the recognition but certainly helped him hone his craft, and it was not till he put out a compilation album in 1988 when Chris started to get some well-deserved recognition. Songs like “On the Beach”, “Josephine”, “Looking for Summer”, and “Gone Fishin’” are well worth checking out.

After a severe bout of pancreatitis in 2001, where he had a 50/50 chance of surviving the surgery and lived, Chris vowed to go back to his blues roots, (in true British guitarist fashion I might add).

His other passion besides music is racing cars, so “The Road to Hell” is a natural analogy for him.
A critical look at society and a concern for the world he is leaving his two daughters is apparent throughout.  He warns us of the society we are creating with technology, commercialism and greed, and the destructive effect it is having on all of us. We have lost out ability to see the big picture and what we have become as a human race, and our politicians aren’t going to save us either.  The lighter, ‘Texas’ with its infection cantering beat and Chis’ nice slide guitar intertwined talks about how it would be good to get away to somewhere that is untouched , open and still having potential.

I’m sure just reading this sounds pretty dark and heavy, but musically and lyrically it is brilliant. Still one of my favourite albums to this day!  

2006’s “The Road to Hell and Back” is a good place to start if you want to hear a broader range of Chris’ material in a reworked manner.. It samples many of the high-points of his career.  One down-side this collection has is that “(Fool) If You Think It’s Over” is a reworked kind of jazz version – the original was much better in my opinion. Strangely the collections in 1988 and 1995 also do not have the original version of “Fool”. I fortunately have the original  45 rpm version that came out at the time. (It can be found however in CD format on “Hard to Find 45’s Volume 8” if you must have it).

No comments: