Thursday, 4 September 2008

"The Works" by CHRIS REA. A 2007 3CD Set On Rhino That Does Work, But When It Comes To His Early Years Is Still A Sorely Missed Opportunity...

"...I Will Light A Candle For You..."

Rhino's re-issues have been a favourite of mine since 1987 and are among the best in the world (just like Ace and Sanctuary in the UK, Bear Family in Germany, Raven in Australia, Rev-ola out of Europe etc). But this 2007 3CD retro on Rhino 5144-23735-2 has its faults. I feel it's a missed opportunity because of what's "not" on here.

I was looking forward to remasters of his Magnet label years from his debut UK album "Whatever Happened To Benny Santini" in 1978 right through to "Dancing With Strangers" from 1987 - all of which have been languishing on thinny sounding non-remastered 80's CDs for over 20 years. But this 3CD retro set touches on that period on Disc 1 only. Discs 2 and 3 are his WEA/East West labels output from 1988 to 2000 and have been available with good sound on their original issues for years. It's the tracks from the 1978-1987 period that need better representation - and because they're given only 1 disc, there are some amazing omissions.

Anyway, what is on this retrospective is good and sounds great. Speaking of sound, while it doesn't say "remastered" anywhere on the discs or labels, the sound on Disc 1 in particular is far superior to the old issues I mentioned earlier. I would say the real tapes have been used here - and from that point of view, they are to be welcomed. Also, as one reviewer has already mentioned, there are no details on the piss-poor 3-page slip inlay provided - not even the album each track is from! And there's snakes in the grass too on the 1st disc (remakes instead of originals, when they're not indicated as so on the sleeve). So here's a list of what's what on each disc. The UK album title and year of release follow after the track title and except where noted, all tracks are original versions. I've also listed an album discography first so you get a better lay of the land:

UK LPs on the Magnet Label:
1. Whatever Happened To Benny Santini? (1978 debut album)
2. Deltics (1979)
3. Tennis (1980)
4. Chris Rea (1982)
5. Water Sign (1983)
6. Wired To The Moon (1984)
7. Shamrock Diaries (1985)
8. On The Beach (1986)
9. Dancing With Strangers (1987)

Signed to WEA/East West label in 1988, WEA/East West Label LPs:

9. New Light Though Old Windows - The Best Of, 1988 (re-recordings of earlier material with some new tracks)
10. The Road To Hell, 1989
11. Auberge, 1991
12. God's Great Banana Skin, 1992
13. Very Best Of (9-12 material with some new tracks), 1994
14. La Passione O.S.T., 1996
15. The Blue Cafe, 1998
16. The Road To Hell, Vol.2, 1999
17. King Of The Beach, 2000

He's had other albums after 2000 but they're not included on this set.

Disc 1.
1. Fool (If You Think It's Over) (a 1988 Re-Recording for WEA and not the far better 1978 original) (New Light Through Old Windows - The Best Of, 1988)
2. Josephine (a 1988 Re-Recording for WEA and not the far better 1985 original) (New Light Through Old Windows - The Best Of)
3. Stainsby Girls (Shamrock Diaries, 1985)
4. On The Beach (On The Beach, 1986)
5. Diamonds (Deltics, 1979)
6. I Can Hear Your Heartbeat (a 1988 Re-Recording for WEA and not the far better 1983 original) (New Light Through Old Windows - The Best Of, 1988)
7. I Don't Know What It Is But I Love It (Wired To The Moon, 1984)
8. No Qualifications (Deltics, 1979)
9. Sweet Kiss (Tennis, 1980)
10. Runaway (Chris Rea, 1982)
11. Every Beat Of My Heart (Chris Rea, 1982)
12. Love's Strange Ways (Water Sign, 1983)
13. The Things Lovers Should Do (Deltics, 1979)
14. Nothings Happening By The Sea (Water Sign, 1983)
15. Ace Of Hearts (Wired To The Moon, 1984)
16. Touché D'Amour (Wired To The Moon, 1984)
17. Stone (Shamrock Diaries, 1985)
18. Love Turns To Lies (Shamrock Diaries, 1985)
19. One Golden Rule (Shamrock Diaries, 1985)

As you can see superb tracks like "Candles" and "Texas" from his brilliant break-though album "Water Sign" from 1983 are missing, as are "Reasons", "Wired To The Moon" and "Shine, Shine, Shine" from the equally great "Wired To The Moon" from 1984. I adore "Shamrock Diaries" as a track and "Steel River" from the album of the same name - but again - not on here! And the b-sides of his early singles are missing too, as are the originals of "Fool" and "I Can Hear..." arguably his biggest hits. Odd.

Disc 2.

1. The Road To Hell (Part 2) (The Road To Hell, 1989)
2. Let's Dance (Dancing With Strangers, 1987)
3. Loving You Again (Dancing With Strangers, 1987)
4. Tell Me There's A Heaven (The Road To Hell, 1989)
5. Little Blonde Plaits (On The Beach, 1986)
6. Lucky Day (On The Beach, 1986)
7. Bless Them All (On The Beach, 1986)
8. Two Roads (On The Beach, 1986)
9. I Can't Dance To That (Dancing With Strangers, 1987)
10. I Don't Care Anymore (Dancing With Strangers, 1987)
11. Windy Town (Dancing With Strangers, 1987)
12. Working On It (a new track and CD single, exclusive to New Light Through Old Windows...)
13. You Must Be Evil (The Road To Hell, 1989)
14. I Just Wanna Be With You (The Road To Hell, 1989)
15. That's What They Always Say (The Road To Hell, 1989)
16. Winter Song (November 1991 CD single)
17. Gone Fishing (Auberge, 1991)
18. Driving Home For Christmas (1987 originally, but this sounds like a re-recording)

Disc 3:
1. Julia (Espresso Logic, 1993)
2. Auberge (Full Album Version) (Auberge, 1991)
3. Looking For The Summer (Auberge, 1991)
4. Nothing To Fear (God's Great Banana Skin, 1992)
5. God's Great Banana Skin (God's Great Banana Skin, 1992)
6. Heaven (Auberge, 1991)
7. The Mention Of Your Name (Auberge, 1991)
8. Soft Top, Hard Shoulder (God's Great Banana Skin, 1992)
9. I Ain't The Fool (God's Great Banana Skin, 1992)
10. You Can Go Your Own Way (Very Best Of, 1994, New Track)
11. La Passione (Film Theme) (La Passione O.S.T., 1996)
12. Horses (La Passione O.S.T., 1996)
13. Square Peg, Round Hole (The Blue Cafe, 1998)
14. The Blue Cafe (The Blue Cafe, 1998)
15. God Gave Me An Angel (King Of The Beach, 2000)
16. New Times Square (The Road To Hell Vol.2, 1999)
17. Keep On Dancing (The Road To Hell Vol.2, 1999)

Hopefully Rhino will release his 1978 to 1987 albums on Remastered & Expanded versions - there are enough B-sides and rarities to yet see CD issue on either side of the pond.

If you wanted a reasonable way of exploring his catalogue, then "The Works" is a good - if not flawed - place to start.

PS: Other artists in "The Works" 3CD series are Morcheeba, The Corrs, Everything But The Girl, Bananarama, The Everly Brothers, Bread, The Wildhearts, The Monkees, The Pogues and Echo And  The Bunnymen

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