Chris Rea life and biography

Chris Rea picture, image, poster

Chris Rea biography

Date of birth : 1951-03-04
Date of death : -
Birthplace : Middlesbrough, England
Nationality : English
Category : Arts and Entertainment
Last modified : 2012-01-11
Credited as : Singer-songwriter, Guitarist, The Road to Hell single

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Chris Rea is an English singer-songwriter, recognisable for his distinctive, husky voice and slide guitar playing. The British Hit Singles & Albums stated that Rea was "one of the most popular UK singer-songwriters of the late 1980s. He was already a major European star by the time he finally cracked the UK Top 10 with his 18th chart entry; "The Road to Hell (Part 2)". By 2009, Rea had sold more than 30 million albums worldwide.

Chris Rea is hardly a household name in the United States, but this unassuming singer has been a constant figure on the European music scene for more than a decade. He is sometimes referred to as the "British Bruce Springsteen" because of the gruff, raspy quality of his voice and the themes that run through his music; like Springsteen, Rea often writes about the search for meaningful values in a world gone awry. Coincidentally, both Springsteen and Rea are of Irish-Italian extraction. Rea cites the music of Joe Walsh as his inspiration for becoming a guitar player. He began playing in his twenties, and in 1975 he formed the band Magdelene, later to be called the Beautiful Losers. The group, which included future Whitesnake member David Cloverdale, won Melody Maker magazine's "Best New Band" award that year.

In 1976 Rea signed as a solo artist with Magnet Records. He got off to a flying start with the single "Fool If You Think It's Over," which charted in both the United Kingdom and the United States and earned him a Grammy nomination for best new artist. Unfortunately for Rea, he was making the right music at the wrong time. Soon after his initial burst of popularity, punk swept over England, overshadowing every other style of music. Rea slipped into a period of relative obscurity. He wrote some fine albums, such as Shamrock Diaries and Do You Like Tennis, but sales of these were far too small to satisfy record company executives.

During this period, Rea became quite disillusioned with the machinations of the recording industry. "I was very close to completely stopping music and opening an Italian restaurant," he told Kent Zimmerman of the Gavin Report. "I was sick to death of it. I didn't want to be a rock star. I just wanted to enjoy the music, which is what I started out doing.... Everyone wanted me to be the next Elton John or George Michael-type superstar. That's not where I come from. I come from the school of Joe Walsh, Bonnie Raitt, Ry Cooder, Lowell George."

Rea's label was as disenchanted with him as he was with them. When he delivered the demo tapes for the album Watersign, the company skipped over the usual remixing process and released the tapes untouched, apparently aiming to fulfill his contract and release him. The unexpected happened, however: Watersign became a respectable hit, selling half a million copies and producing a top single, "I Can Hear Your Heart Beat." Rea began touring heavily to bolster the album's success, and built up a loyal following in Germany and France as well as the United Kingdom.

Rea's greatest recognition in the United States came with his 1990 recording, The Road to Hell. Zimmerman stated that "Out of ... ten-plus years of recording music, Road to Hell stands out as his masterwork.... There's a feel of environmental politics threading its way, conceptually, through most of the songs.... Mixed in with the doomy lyrics and instrumentation are a few choice love songs."

Rea conceived of the album while trapped in an all-too-typical traffic jam in the south of England. The isolation of the thousands of commuters in their cars struck him forcefully, and within days he had written several songs concerning the ills of modern life. The music behind the lyrics has an ominous, eerie quality. "That's deliberate," Rea explained. "I'm trying to bring a bit of Alfred Hitchcock into the music.... A lot of folks do think that we're on the edge of some terrible, impending disaster.

Rea had another success in America in 1994 with Espresso Logic, which showcased "a number of genres, from crunching blues, to Beatlesque pop, to fluent jazz," according to Steve White in the Lowell, Massachusetts Sun. The album consists of tracks previously included on European releases, one of which was also called Espresso Logic; the other was titled God's Great Banana Skin.

The U.S. album, however, included a duet by Rea with Elton John titled "If You Were Me." Reviewers commented on Rea's fluid slide guitar and praised his throaty yet polished vocals. In addition, Lee Barrish, writing for Cleveland's Scene, observed, "The elements of woe (thoughts of mortality and death) that coursed their way through the last three albums have finally been laid to rest." A Network Forty reviewer remarked that the release "is a bold milestone" in Rea's career and also noted that Rea's relative obscurity in the United States despite his immense popularity in Europe does not affect him: "He has always stood for quality music with intelligence, not just commercial appeal."

In November 2007, Rea announced a new tour and a new album featuring 38 new tracks on three CDs and two vinyls, which included a hardback book in the style of a slightly tatty 12" vinyl sleeve. The Return of the Fabulous Hofner Blue Notes (a dedication to the 1960s guitar of the same name) was released in February 2008. In writing the album, Rea dreamed up a band that had never existed — a pastiche instrumental group from the late 1950s called The Delmonts.

In October 2009, Rhino released a new 2-disc best of compilation. Still So Far To Go - The Best of Chris Rea contained some of his best known hits over the last thirty years, many of them less well known, as well as more recent songs from his "blues" period. There are also two new songs "Come So Far, Yet Still So Far to Go" and the ballad "Valentino", a song about his dog that had died. The album was Rea's highest charting album in 15 years, reaching #8 and staying in the Top 50 for four weeks.

Discography:
-Whatever Happened to Benny Santini? (1978)
-Deltics (1979)
-Tennis (1980)
-Chris Rea (1982)
-Water Sign (1983)
-Wired to the Moon (1984)
-Shamrock Diaries (1985)
-On the Beach (1986)
-Dancing with Strangers (1987)
-The Road to Hell (1989)
-Auberge (1991)
-God's Great Banana Skin (1992)
-Espresso Logic (1993)
-La Passione (1996)
-The Blue Cafe (1998)
-The Road to Hell: Part 2 (1999)
-King of the Beach (2000)
-Dancing Down the Stony Road / Stony Road (2002)
-Blue Street (Five Guitars) (2003)
-Hofner Blue Notes (2003)
-The Blue Jukebox (2004)
-Blue Guitars (2005)
-The Return of the Fabulous Hofner Bluenotes (2008)
-Still So Far To Go: The Best of Chris Rea (2009)
-Santo Spirito Blues (2011)

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