Saturday, 2 June 2018

Chris Rea - Road Songs For Lovers (2017)

  

Released September 2017

Recorded at Metropolis Studios, London

Six years after his previous, bluesy album, “Santo Spirito Blues”, Chris Rea returned with a more mainstream, radio-friendly album. Yes, it still has that blues influence underpinning it, particularly in the opening song, “Happy On The Road”, but laid-back, melodic slowies like the beautiful “Nothing Left Behind” and the title track, “Road Songs For Lovers” see more of the AOR soft rock that endeared Rea to the Radio 2 crowd in the 1990s and early 2000s. It is immaculately played traditional low key rock. Firm drums, solid bass, nice piano, keyboards and occasional saxophone and, of course, Rea’s deep, evocative, soulful voice, which seems to get better with age.

Lyrically, it is all about couples travelling together, on the road, in cars on trains. However, the old blues conceits are never far from the surface - a track like “Money” (re-worked after being on the previous album) is a wonderful slice of contemporary blues rock. Industrial, powerful, thumping and lifted even higher by Rea’s trademark, piercing slide guitar. Great part at the conclusion of this song.

“The Road Ahead” is a similar, slide-enhanced rumbling, cooking blues. “Last Train” has another excellent slide ending. To be honest, Chris Rea seems capable of putting songs like this out in his sleep. You know what you’re going to get and if you like it, that’s great.

Upbeat, commercial, blues-influenced songs like “Moving On” would not have sounded out of place on the “60s and 70s” album in the “Blue Guitars” collection. Nice brass backing and slightly funky guitar breaks.

This album avoids being buried in the blues, however, and there is always a traditional Chris Rea late night, smoochy ballad like the yearning “Two Lost Souls”, or “Angel Of Love” to counter the often blistering power of the blues tracks. In this respect it differs somewhat from the previous album. In many ways, it is a satisfying mix.

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