Friday, 21 June 2019

Chris Rea - Dancing With Strangers (1987)

We done some gigs on the Clyde and the Tyne....


Released in September 1987

Running time 58:54 (including three bonus instrumental tracks)

Personally, I think this was Chris Rea's best album thus far. It was his most full on rock offering, more so than Shamrock Diaries, more lively and upbeat in its feel, and less laid-back than On The Beach. Although we were still in the eighties, the album is refreshingly guitar-driven. Yes, there are a few synthesisers floating around but they do not overwhelm as they do on many eighties albums. It is still a credible rock album, for the most part.

TRACK LISTING (original album)

1. Joys Of Christmas
2. I Can't Dance To That
3. Windy Town
4. Gonna Buy A Hat
5. Curse Of The Traveller
6. Let's Dance
7. Que Sera
8. Josie's Tune
9. Loving You Again
10. That Girl Of Mine
11. September Blue                                    

Joys Of Christmas is certainly not the festive song one might expect it to be - it is a deep, bluesy number with Rea semi-speaking his gruff vocal about the "joys of Christmas, Northern style". It is a great track, enhanced by a searing slide guitar solo. I Can't Dance To That is another blues-influenced rocker with a great riff and featuring Rea's first reference to "the road to hell". The Dire Straits-ish Windy Town is packed full of Northern atmosphere. Rea really starts to create an identity from his roots on this album. There are touches of Al Stewart about this one too.

Gonna Buy A Hat keeps the riffy rock coming thick and fast on another appealing, punchy number. There is a bit of Bruce Springsteen in the Born In The USA era about this, sort of Darlington County. It uses a solid brass section too. The pace slows down on the Celtic-influenced Curse Of The Traveller, although after a mysterious, haunting pipe intro it breaks out into a slow pace but muscular bluesy rock ballad. Another great piece of guitar work adorns the track. That brassy, jaunty catchiness is quick to return, though, on the popular Let's Dance. This is a track that Rea has recorded several times. This is a slightly slower, more soulful version of it. It is the original, I think.

Que Sera is a mix of blues harmonica and Latin rhythms and a sort of Bo Diddley beat. There are slight echoes of Springsteen's She's The One every now and again, just vaguely, in the drum rhythm. Josie's Tune is a short, entrancing Celtic pipe interlude. It gently merges into the Van Morrison-style mystic intro to Loving You Again, which eventually bursts into a metronomic, pounding but soulful rock song. A bit synthy, but never mind. That Girl Of Mine is a jaunty, slightly rockabilly number with a nice catchy bass line and confident, ebullient vocal.

September Blue ends the album with a tender, emotive ballad. It was the album's only example of Rea's ability to write a touching love song. The main bulk of the album was vibrant rock-ish material. That, for me, was a good thing, despite the fact that I like his love songs. This was clearly intended to be an upbeat album. Another sleepy one like On The Beach would typecast him somewhat. Chris Rea was starting to prove his versatility. He was never a one-trick pony, and still isn't.


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