Saturday, 22 June 2019

Chris Rea - Auberge (1991)


  

Released February 1991

Running time 54:33

Chris Rea was a more successful artist by now, finally, having been putting albums out since 1978. This was actually his eleventh album. It was the follow-up to the dark-ish Dire Straits-influenced and bluesy rock of "The Road To Hell", which was a hit of an album. This offering is less dark, more laid-back but still solid in its tough AOR rock appeal. It is definitely rock for reflective, hard but surprisingly sensitive men approaching forty. Just like Rea himself.

TRACK LISTING

1. Auberge
2. Gone Fishing
3. You're Not A Number
4. Heaven
5. Set Me Free
6. Red Shoes
7. Winter Song
8. Sing A Song Of Love To Me
9. Every Second Counts
10. Looking For The Summer
11. And You My Love
12. The Mention Of Your Name                        

The title track takes 2:40 to burst into action, following some footsteps/background noise sound effects and some slow, bluesy slide guitar. When it does, it is a riffy and brassily upbeat rock number. Rea's gritty, flinty voice is the dominant feature. It is a warm, reassuring but tough voice. "Gone Fishing" is a beautiful, philosophical song with a Springsteen-esque male view of life and its expectations. "You're Not A Number" is probably the first track thus far in Rea's career which is done in the muscular blues rock style that would continue into the new millennium and would populate a lot of the huge "Blue Guitars" project in 2005. The seeds for that album were sown here. Another thing one notices about this album is the improvement in its sound quality from the eighties releases.

"Heaven" is a mournful, slow, emotive ballad in that sleepy contemporary Eric Clapton style. "Set Me Free" is cut from the same cloth too, although more bluesy in its lyrics about "looking down that road out of town". Some great guitar and a huge orchestration appears at the end. "Red Shoes", after an odd intro played by what sounds like a tuba, cranks up into another kicking, horn-powered rocker, in the "Let's Dance" style. "Winter Song" is a slow song with vague Sting hints about it.


"Sing A Song Of Love To Me" is also a soporific, late-night crooner. Four of the last five tracks have been in such a mode and it is this that makes this a bit of a low-key album. I prefer my Chris Rea a bit more bluesy and rocking, or at least for around 60% of the material. The balance here is a bit too far the other way, for me. The mood is changed a little, though, with the summery reggae of "Every Second Counts". Rea and whichever musicians he has used have always been able to play convincing reggae, something not true of all artists. An incongruous piece of orchestration at the end spoils it slightly, though. "Looking For The Summer" is a gently shuffling number vaguely reminiscent in its refrain of "The Days Of Pearly Spencer". "And You My Love" is waves-washing on the beach pleasant enough. "The Mention Of Your Name" is a Frank Sinatra "dark period" torch-style song. It is another slow-paced song to end what had become a very slow-paced album.

Personally, I always have a bit of a problem with post 1990 albums that get near to, or over, the hour mark. I feel there is a succinct punchiness to a traditional seventies-style forty minutes offering. Shaving fifteen minutes off would definitely improve "Auberge".

C+

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