Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Christopher Cross - Christopher Cross

The Texas singer-songwriter Christopher Cross ended the 70's with his self-titled debut album, released in late December of 1979. Christopher Cross is a soft-rock classic that went multi-platinum in the US (reaching number 6 on the Billboard Album chart) as well as selling very well internationally (number 6 in Australia, number 14 in the UK, number 16 in New Zealand and number 18 in Japan). The record stayed on the US charts for the entire year and well into 1981, when it beat out Pink Floyd’s The Wall for the Grammy Award for Album of the Year.

Side one starts off with “Say You’ll Be Mine”, the fourth and final single from the album. It spent seven weeks on the Billboard charts, topping out a number 20. Nicolette Larson, who had her own solo success in the late 70’s, shares the vocals on this one. This plea for love has a nice bouncy beat to it and a light but crisp guitar solo. It makes me think of jet-skiing in the crystal blue waters off of a sunny tropical island for some reason (I think I am missing Hawaii...).

Cross gets a little help from the Doobie Brothers‘ Michael McDonald on “I Really Don’t Know Anymore”. The two voices provide an interesting yet pleasant contrast when paired; Cross has a higher range while McDonald has that deeper resonation.

Another singer-songwriter, Valerie Carter, joins Cross for a duet on “Spinning”. This one has a smooth piano foundation to it for their two voices to build upon.

The album‘s third single was “Never Be the Same”, which got to number 15 during its twelve weeks on the charts. It also spent two weeks at the number 1 spot on the Adult Contemporary charts. I remember this one coming on the radio back in the day, along with the other two big hits. This one definitely wasn’t as overplayed though. I still think it is a beautiful song and I’ll often sing along with the chorus.

“Poor Shirley” opens with some violins and other strings, giving it a different feel. The beat is a bit plunk-plunky. It is an okay song but it does not do much for me. On my old turntable, I probably would have recalled the needle before this one got too far along; today I can just click next on my iPod/iTunes.

Side two opens with “Ride Like the Wind”; Michael McDonald returns to help with the backing vocals on this the first single from the album. It spent seventeen weeks on the charts including four at the number 2 spot (blocked the entire time by Blondie’s “Call Me”). I really like the rhythm on this one and the grand approach it takes with the sweeping orchestration and the bold guitar solo. I think that’s part of what made it so appealing to the record buying public at the time. I certainly put down my ninety-nine cents at the local record store to get this one on a 45.

Jazz guitarist Larry Carlton and Eagles’ vocalists J.D. Souther and Don Henley join in the jam on “The Light Is On”. The song has a nice, intimate club feel to it.

“Sailing”, the second single, was the most successful track from this record. It got to number 1 on the Billboard charts after thirteen weeks (dethroning Olivia Newton-John’s “Magic” and then being bumped by Diana Ross’ “Upside Down”) and it was also the 1981 Grammy winner for both Record of the Year and Song of the Year. Having heard this one very often on the radio, I can pretty much sing right along with the lyrics all the way through - verses and chorus. It definitely takes me back to my freshman year of high school when it was on the charts, listening to the radio late on weekend nights before dozing off to sleep.

The record closes with “Minstrel Gigolo” and another beautiful piano melody. What I really enjoy about this song and the whole album is the songwriting craft that went into making this record. It may all be soft-rock and, for some, kind of light-weight but it was enjoyable music. Today’s generation would consider it Muzak or easy-listening but sometimes that’s the kind of music I need after a long week.

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