Tuesday, 4 June 2019

Chris Rea - The Road To Hell (1989)

That's what they always say....

  

Released October 1989

Running time 50:53

This was an album which gained Chris Rea considerable critical acclaim, after several years of releasing poppy, commercial AOR rock. He now let his blues and gospel influences out and his record company thought it would flop. It became his biggest selling album. It had that laid-back Dire Straits on "Brothers In Arms" sort of appeal that was popular in the mid-late eighties.

TRACK LISTING

1. The Road To Hell (Part One)
2. The Road To Hell (Part Two)
3. You Must Be Evil
4. Texas
5. Looking For A Rainbow
6. Your Warm And Tender Love
7. Daytona
8. That's What They Always Say
9. I Just Wanna Be With You
10. Tell Me There's A Heaven                    

The two incarnations of "The Road To Hell" are both superbly atmospheric in their own way. The first begins with windscreen wiper sound effects and snippets of radio traffic updates before Rea arrives with the sort of bluesy gospel vocal he would use a lot on 2005's "Blue Guitars" project. Then the instantly recognisable drum beat and guitar of the very Dire Straits-esque kick in and Rea tells it "ain't no technological breakdown, this is the road to hell..." as he drives round the M25. It is one of the best songs of its type of all time. Rea contributes some excellent slide guitar at the end too. The song is one of his finest moments.


"You Must Be Evil" is a huge, bassy, thumping piece of slow burning bluesy rock, with Rea's evocative voice again laconically giving the song such character. He really is a most underrated, often misunderstood artist. He is far more than a throwaway, easy listening AOR merchant. The blues are deep in his soul, lyrically and musically. Check out the searing blues guitar on this track. Chris Rea can play the blues, ain't no doubt about that. "Texas" is very much a pointer to some of Rea's later blues material, despite its late eighties beat. It is beautifully understated and full of atmosphere. That killer guitar is here again, too. This is quality stuff. Listening to it again, I had sort of forgotten just how good it was.

"Looking For A Rainbow" is seven minutes of superb Chris Rea rock, yet again full of character and that guitar enhancing it. "Your Warm And Tender Love" continues very much in the same vein. The infectious shuffle of "Daytona" is back to a Dire Straits groove again, particularly on the guitar. The drum sound on here, as on all the album, is immensely powerful. "That's What They Always Say" is an upbeat, pleasant rocker. "I Just Wanna Be With You" is a romantic, melodic number, while the album ends with the heavily orchestrated and moving ballad "Tell Me There's A Heaven".

Chris Rea has produced many fine albums, this is up there as one of his very best.

B+

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