Virtuoso guitar playing, trademark smoky vocals and excellent songs have paved the way to global success for Chris Rea. A man of few gestures and words, he plays his very own style of blues which has followed its own route separate from the mainstream and trends.
Chris Rea did not pick up his first guitar until the age of 19. He was born in Middlesbrough (England). His father, an Italian immigrant, owned an ice cream shop and Chris grew up with an idealistic vision of Italy, a place where everything seemed to be sunnier, happier and somehow better and you were surrounded by uncles playing accordion. He claims these Italian influences can still be heard today in the tenderness of many of his songs. The inspiration to play the blues followed an incident involving a "politically correct" teacher who wanted to tear one of his essays into pieces in front of the whole class. They both ended up tugging at his exercise book across the desk and he was subsequently expelled from school. Frustrated, he then went round to a friend's who played him a Joe Walsh record which was to change his life from that day - Chris Rea went out and bought his first guitar and a bottleneck.
In 1973, he joined a local band called Magdalene
whose singer Dave Coverdale had just left to join Deep Purple
. Magdalene changed their name to Beautiful Losers
, and even though they won a Melody Maker competition as "Best Newcomer of the Year", they more or less lived up to their name. Chris Rea left the band in 1977 to embark on a solo career. In April 1978 he released his single "Fool (If You Think It's Over)" which charted both in the UK and the USA. Since then, Chris Rea has sold over 22 million albums worldwide. His exceptional career now spans 19 albums and during this whole time he has performed live with his band in international concert halls - without a break.
The quality of the live performances in particular has been praised by the media as one of the great moments of blues rock - "there is a fascinating interplay between the vocals and the guitar." While he may sometimes seem uncomfortable on stage, he masters his guitar and voice perfectly. Chris Rea is not one for big shows, bragging and special effects. He does love the stage though because he can feel the audience respond to his songs. The gifted slide guitarist gains his strength and inspiration from his private life. He does not get involved in scandals and leads a happy family life. His favorite pastimes are very down to earth. He loves cooking Italian food and likes a good pint. His passion for car racing and Ferraris show a surprising side to his multifaceted personality.
Rock romanticism, instrumental finesse and artistic maturity flow into Chris Rea's music. He has learnt to distinguish between superficial fame and lasting impressions as well as between faceless fabricated productions and personal statements.
Almost two years ago he fell ill with a pancreatic condition and underwent several complicated operations. During his illness it was his two daughters and his wife who helped him to be strong and kept him going. He claims his family literally saved him.
It was during this difficult period that Chris decided his next album would show his musical roots. The state of his life is expressed in the lyrics of the Stony Road
album with an amazing sincerity and openness, which was unknown in his previous work. He himself says that the songs came to life from a time of serious illness. Stony Road
is full of life. Life changes constantly and in this way, Chris Rea has experienced serious changes over the last two years which at the same time helped his recovery.
He always had a feel for the blues. In other words, the chords and sounds, which form the basis of the blues, can be heard in many old Chris Rea songs. The original version of his first global success "Fool (When You Think It's Over)" was conceived as a blues track.
The 12-bar chord structures on his new album Stony Road
have also been given the typical melodic touches, which, of course, result from his Irish/Italian background.
Jean Cocteau described blues lyrics as the only true contribution to real folk poetry in the last century. Chris Rea is therefore not putting himself into one niche of the music market. Quite the opposite: the authentic vitality of the album is refreshing in times of increasingly "cloned" made-to-measure music.