Turn That Noise Down - Chris Rea

So many well-known albums turn 30 this year and Steve Taylor-Bryant and Susan Omand travel back to 1992 to revisit some of the sounds of their youth that made parents shout "Turn that noise down!" This week, Susan slips on God's Great Banana Skin...

A Chris Rea album is for life, not just for Christmas. As well as just Drivin’ Home for said festive season, and whatever you think of his politics, Chris Rea created a LOT of good music in his day. So, when God’s Great Banana Skin slid onto the retrospective list, I reckoned it would be a great chance to revisit an album that I must have heard dozens of times before because, well, it was a Chris Rea album. Reader, I obviously hadn’t. Just because the record cover is so memorable for me for some reason, it didn’t mean I actually remembered any of the songs when I listened to the album this week. So, nothing daunted, here’s a track by track of an album I thought I knew.

Nothing to Fear is a stunner of an opening track. Nine minutes long, the intro sent shivers down my spine with an incredible drone and guitar sound, before transporting me to the heat of the desert with a strong Moroccan feel to the bending strings. This, it transpires, is echoed by the video imagery for the (much shorter) single version - [here - Ed] which shows just how evocative music can be.

Miles Is a Cigarette is a slow burn in a lot of ways. I think we’ll call it a grower – For me, the Cohen-esque voice doesn’t fit with the synthy backing, or maybe the other way around as, separately, both are wonderful but, mixed together, it all sounds a bit off kilter.

God's Great Banana Skin, the title track, is a lot more upbeat and the vocal works so much better with the rockier sound. It is very commercial sounding, which meant, I guess, that it made a good second single from the album. Still a decent bop though.

Nineties Blues has unexpectedly Bond-theme-like violins, which is disconcerting to start with but works really well later on in the song. The rest soon settles to the right kind of blues with slow repetitive lyrics over luscious guitar and metrically head-nodding percussion, and the scat piano in the break is glorious.

Too Much Pride reminds me very much of the Travelling Wilburys in the easy-going rhythm and it’s a very sing-along song that has a dark edge to the lyrics.

From there, we go full on country with Boom Boom, even down to the strict dancing tempo and the steel guitar, and it does exactly what you expect it to do, which is no bad thing sometimes.

I Ain't the Fool puts down the steel guitar and picks up the synth again, sadly to its detriment. It’s very eighties sounding, which isn’t great for a nineties song. Probably my least favourite on the album.

There She Goes is, surprisingly [not – Ed], not a cover version of the La’s song. Instead, it harks back to the soulful sounds of the early sixties and reminds me very much, in the chord progression, of Ben E King’s Stand by Me.

I'm Ready is another song that sounds like something else, because of the bassline, but it’s not as overt – it’s maybe just a well-used riff. Still a cool but bouncy track that keeps the feet tapping along.

Black Dog is back to blues but with a seventies classic rock feel much more than the nineties. If you loved Road to Hell, you will love this one as it has very much the same feel.

Soft Top, Hard Shoulder rounds out the album and, to be honest, it’s the only track I remember from back in the day but that’s mostly because of the BAFTA winning Peter Capaldi film of the same name, to which this was the theme. As a side note, Chris Rea also composed the rest of the music score for the low-budget indie film, just because he loved the project.

So, yeah, an album I thought I knew, but didn’t. I will admit, it’s not a patch on Road to Hell, or even Auberge, but it’s decent throughout, with a few outstanding tracks. Much as I adore the opening few minutes of the full version of Nothing to Fear, though, I’m going to leave you with Nineties Blues, those incongruous violins and that glorious piano.

Image - Amazon

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