Chris Rea – Shamrock Diaries (1985)

LPFrontCover1Christopher Anton Rea (born 4 March 1951) is an English rock and blues singer-songwriter and guitarist from Middlesbrough, England. He is of Italian and Irish descent. He is known for his distinctive, husky singing and slide guitar playing, with the Guinness Rockopedia describing him as a “gravel-voiced guitar stalwart”. After learning to play the guitar relatively late, a short burst of local band activity led to his launching a solo career in 1978.

Louder magazine calls Rea “rock’s ultimate survivor”, given his recovery from several bouts of serious illness. He has produced 25 solo albums, with several from his later blues period – such as Blue Guitars (2005) – having multiple discs. British Hit Singles & Albums says that Rea was “one of the most popular UK singer-songwriters of the late 1980s” and “already a major European star by the time he finally cracked the UK Top 10 with the release of the [1989] single “The Road to Hell (Part 2)…” his 18th chart entry.”

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Two of his most successful studio albums, The Road to Hell (1989) and Auberge (1991), topped the UK Albums Chart. His other hit songs include “I Can Hear Your Heartbeat”, “Stainsby Girls”, “Josephine”, “On the Beach”, “Let’s Dance”, “Driving Home for Christmas”, “Working on It”, “Tell Me There’s a Heaven”, “Auberge”, “Looking for the Summer”, “Winter Song”, “Nothing to Fear”, “Julia”, and “If You Were Me”, a duet with Elton John. Rea was nominated three times for the Brit Award for Best British Male Artist: in 1988, 1989 and 1990.

Rea has never toured the United States, where he is best known for the 1978 single “Fool (If You Think It’s Over),” which reached No. 12 on the Billboard Hot 100 and spent three weeks at No. 1 on the Adult Contemporary chart. This success earned him a Grammy nomination as Best New Artist in 1978. A decade later, Working On It topped the Mainstream Rock chart. As of 2009, Rea had sold more than 30 million records worldwide.

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Shamrock Diaries is the seventh studio album by British singer-songwriter Chris Rea, released in 1985. This album represents the beginning of a creative and commercial zenith for Rea. Shamrock Diaries was a huge seller in Europe, reaching the top 20 in several countries including Ireland, West Germany, Czechoslovakia, Sweden and the United Kingdom, and spent forty two weeks in the Dutch charts, peaking at No. 3. The album was also successful in Australia, where it charted in the top 50. “Stainsby Girls” became Rea’s first Top 30 single since 1978’s “Fool If You Think It’s Over”. In 1988, Magnet Records was taken over by Warner Bros Records, who re-released Shamrock Diaries with a significantly remixed version of “Josephine”. The original version was used in the 2019 deluxe re-issue of the album.

Rea wrote the material during a protracted stay in Ireland. In a fresh interview for the sleeve notes in the deluxe version of the album (2019), he recalls how Dublin “reminded me so much of my home town…. Middlesbrough back then was about 65% Irish… And half my family are from Ireland.” The two most popular tracks from the album were written for members of Rea’s family. “Stainsby Girls” was a tribute to his wife, Joan, a former student of the Stainsby Secondary Modern School. “Josephine” was written for his daughter, after whom it is named. Almost a decade later, Rea would also name a song after his youngest daughter, Julia, on the album Espresso Logic (1993).

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Rea told Q magazine that he wrote “Steel River” after returning to Middlesbrough “to see me father after me mother died, and [they] had knocked the whole place down. I’d been gone three years, hard touring in Europe, I literally went to drive somewhere that wasn’t there. It was like a sci-fi movie. That’s when I wrote Steel River. The Middlesbrough I knew, it’s as if there was a war there 10 years ago.” “Chisel Hill” refers to a house Rea bought in the vicinity of Roseberry Topping, which lies just south of Middlesbrough, and has a distinctive half-cone shaped summit. Rea says that the song “can make me cry quite easily… We’d reached the point where we’d bought a house, I had a child, we were happy. We’d kept the wolf from the door and things were okay… [I] wrote that song all in one quick go… whoever wrote that song back then, he must have been a really happy guy. Yeah, that song gets me.” “You’re looking back at yourself”, he said, “remembering what you thought was going to happen, and then what actually happened… I definitely should have stayed in Chisel Hill, without a doubt!”

The track “Stone” was covered by the Law on their self-titled album, with Rea on guitar. In 2000, “Josephine” was sampled by Superfunk for their song “Lucky Star”, with Ron Carroll, although the samples come from another (shorter) version of the song, rather than the original album version.

In 2007 German guitarist Axel Rudi Pell covered the same track for his album “Diamonds Unlocked”. His version features Johnny Gioeli on vocals. (wikipedia)

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After seven albums, Chris Rea was finally beginning to get the hang of what makes a commercial success. He had not changed his style throughout the 1980s, but now it was 1985 and the synth pop sounds and new romantics were both long gone — and in their place were stadium-filling anthemic rock or power ballads. Shamrock Diaries was a mix of soft ballads like “Chisel Hill” and “One Golden Rule” along with saxophone-led uptempo numbers such as the title track and the feel-good song of the summer, “All Summer Long,” which would have made an ideal single had Magnet decided to release it. Shamrock Diaries was written very much with family in mind, particularly considering the two singles released: “Stainsby Girls” was a tribute to his wife, Joan, who had attended Stainsby Secondary Modern School; and “Josephine” was written for his eldest daughter. The opening track, “Steel River,” was rather hard to define, being a soft piano-led ballad until the first chorus kicked in and the song revealed gospel roots, but by the time the second chorus came along it had become a jazz jam. This was followed by “Stainsby Girls,” easily the most like Bruce Springsteen that Rea had ever sounded — and it became his first Top 30 single since “Fool If You Think It’s Over” from the late ’70s. However, Chris Rea saved the best track until the end: the slow-building “Hired Gun,” over eight minutes of brooding menace. (by Sharon Mawer)

And … a real great line-up …

… and listen to the great saxophone player Mel Collins and his solo on “Stainsby Girls” !

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Personnel:
Robert Ahwai (guitar)
Mel Collins (saxophone)
Martin Ditcham (percussion)
Kevin Leach (keyboards)
Dave Mattacks (drums)
Max Middleton (keyboards)
Simon Nicol (guitar)
Eoghan O’Neill (bass)
Adrian Rea (drums)
Chris Rea (vocals, guitar, slie-guitar,  organ, synthesizer)
Annie Whitehead (trombone)
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The Sultanas (background vocals)
Ian Barnett – Donnie Hilstad – Jesse Lortz – Kimberly Morrison)

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Tracklist:
01. Steel River 6.17
02. Stainsby Girls 3.52
03. Chisel Hill 4.03
04. Josephine 3.57
05. One Golden Rule 4.30
06. All Summer Long 4.11
07. Stone 4.27
08. Shamrock Diaries 4.56
08. Love Turns To Lies 4.12
09. Hired Gun 8.01

All songs written by Chris Rea.

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More from Chris Rea:
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The (now deleted) website:
Website

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