Dying flame, you're free again...
Released on 17 October 1988
Running Time 1:00:13
Funnily enough, this was the first Chris Rea album I ever bought, on the back of liking the Stainsby Girls single. At the time I didn't realise, initially, that the album was made up of re-recordings of tracks previously issued on other albums. Many artists have done this sort of thing later in their careers, but this was a comparatively early and brave move for Rea. What is good about these recordings is that they have a great sound to them (the early albums all suffered comparatively from poor-ish sound) so the album stands on its own feet as a credible one, and not one of re-hashes.
It was actually marketed as The Best Of Chris Rea: New Light Through Old Windows, so I just assumed it was a "best of" compilation. It took me quite a while to realise it wasn't quite that straightforward. For a long time, these were the only versions of these songs I knew.
TRACK LISTING (in brackets are the albums the songs originally appeared on)
1. Let's Dance (from "Dancing with Strangers")
2. Working On It (single)
3. Ace Of Hearts (from "Wired To The Moon")
4. Josephine (from "Shamrock Diaries")
5. Candles (from "Water Sign")
6. On The Beach (from "On The Beach")
7. Fool (If You Think It's Over) (from "Whatever Happened To Benny Santini?")
8. I Can Hear Your Heartbeat (from "Water Sign")
9. Shamrock Diaries (from "Shamrock Diaries")
10. Stainsby Girls (from "Shamrock Diaries")
11. Windy Town (from "Dancing With Strangers")
12. Driving Home For Christmas (single)
13. Steel River (from "Shamrock Diaries")
Let's Dance is big, brassy and infectious and Working On It is full of trademark Rea slide guitar riffs. Ace Of Hearts is a beautiful, evocative laid-back ballad, packed full of soul and Dire Straits-esque guitar backing. Josephine is one in what was now typical Chris Rea style, with his gruff voice dominating over a vaguely summery, reggae-ish backing.
Candles is not as keyboard-dominated as it is on the Water Sign album and features an excellent Knopfler-influenced guitar. On The Beach has a superb sound to it, with that catchy shuffling intro taking centre stage. Rea's voice on this is superb, as indeed is the song's whole ambience.
Both Fool (If You Think It's Over) and I Can Hear Your Heartbeat had been quite popular semi-hits, but had not been ubiquitous enough for me not to think these were their original incarnations. They both sound great on here anyway. My two favourite tracks have always been the Springsteen-esque Stainsby Girls and the epic Steel River. Both of them, for me, are far better on these recordings than their originals. "Dancing to Motown, making love with a Carole King record playing...". Great line.
Shamrock Diaries is punchier here, but unfortunately lacks the saxophone that enhanced is original recording. Windy Town is a most atmospheric number with areal North-East England feel. Oh, and then there is Driving Home For Christmas. Yes, it also has bags of atmosphere, but, of course, it can only be played once or twice in December and that's it.