CHRIS REA - Water Sign (1983) & Shamrock Diaries (1985)
Water Sign is an album by Chris Rea, released in 1983. It forms one of the cornerstones of the career of Chris Rea, since it was almost never released. The record company showed so little interest in doing anything with Chris Rea at all, that they would not even pay the money to record the album professionally. What was actually released was the DEMO album that Rea recorded by himself, as a demo for the record company, with a few overdubs. Hence the extensive use of electronic drum machines. The irony is, the album was well received, and most people thought the new electronic sound of Chris Rea was rather good. Little did they know that tracks such as I Can Hear Your Heartbeat would probably have been recorded in a completely different way, had Rea had the freedom to let his creative juices flow.
After seven albums, Chris Rea was finally beginning to get the hang of what makes a commercial success. He had not changed his style throughout the 1980s, but now it was 1985 and the synth pop sounds and new romantics were both long gone - and in their place were stadium-filling anthemic rock or power ballads. Shamrock Diaries was a mix of soft ballads like "Chisel Hill" and "One Golden Rule" along with saxophone-led uptempo numbers such as the title track and the feel-good song of the summer, "All Summer Long," which would have made an ideal single had Magnet decided to release it. Shamrock Diaries was written very much with family in mind, particularly considering the two singles released: "Stainsby Girls" was a tribute to his wife, Joan, who had attended Stainsby Secondary Modern School; and "Josephine" was written for his eldest daughter. The opening track, "Steel River," was rather hard to define, being a soft piano-led ballad until the first chorus kicked in and the song revealed gospel roots, but by the time the second chorus came along it had become a jazz jam. This was followed by "Stainsby Girls," easily the most like Bruce Springsteen that Rea had ever sounded - and it became his first Top 30 single since "Fool If You Think It's Over" from the late '70s. However, Chris Rea saved the best track until the end: the slow-building "Hired Gun," over eight minutes of brooding menace.
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