Thursday, 13 June 2019

Chris Rea - Shamrock Diaries (1985)


Released April 1985

Running time 48:28

It was 1985 now, and Chris Rea had released seven albums, would you believe. None of them had sold many copies at all, dispiritingly for him and his record company. He changed things around a bit here. This was his most "stadium rock"-ish of his offerings so far, the one that had him sounding like a Middlesbrough Springsteen. The synth pop and new romantic keyboard influences had gone now and he was becoming more of a rocker. This was the first time I took notice of him, back then. There was some quality material on here, songs that made you sit up and take notice. Many of his albums contained just the one absolutely copper-bottomed great track. This one had at least five of them.


1. Steel River
2. Stainsby Girls
3. Chisel Hill
4. Josephine
5. One Golden Rule
6. All Summer Long
7. Stone
8. Shamrock Diaries
9. Love Turns To Lies
10. Hired Gun                                                

"Steel River" is a Rea classic, starting off as a slow piano-driven ballad it launches into a huge gospel soul brassy chorus. Lyrically, it is a moving song about his home town of Middlesbrough. I have to say, though, that I prefer the version on the album of re-workings, "New Light Through Old Windows". The same applies to another Rea anthem, the Springsteen-esque "Stainsby Girls", a tribute to his wife, who attended Stainsby Secondary Modern School in Middlesbrough. It was this track that first brought my attention to Rea. It is an excellent slide guitar-dominated, riffy rocker with great lyrics. In 1985, this was what I wanted to hear, after several years of Duran Duran, Spandau Ballet and Culture Club forced into my earshot.

The quality continues on the beautifully-evocative, soulful "Chisel Hill". This was Chris Rea at his moving best. I love this track. It is very Springsteen-influenced you have to say, with touches of Van Morrison too. "Josephine" is a sumptuous ballad that would go on to become a Rea standard in live sets. "One Golden Rule" ploughs the same furrow, although it was still 1985, so a bit of a synth backing prevails on the surprisingly mournful "All Summer Long".

"Stone" is a solid, powerful rock ballad. This brooding, soulful, atmospheric ambience is found on "Shamrock Diaries" as well, enhanced by some jazzy, wine-bar saxophone. Chris Rea has always had an excellent voice and this song shows that, particularly. "Love Turns To Lies" is hewn from the same quarry. This is actually quite a sombre album, especially this latter half and the introspective, reflective gloom is not lifted by the moody eight minutes of "Hired Gun". Very "Brothers In Arms". Ironically, that album didn't come out until a month after this one. It breaks out into an Elton John-style chorus. Rea gives us a searing slide guitar solo too. Don't get me wrong, this is a very good song and this was a good album, but it is a very sombre one. It was Rea's finest album thus far too.


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