Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Christopher Cross (1979)

Released: December, 1979 (Warner Bros.)
Produced by: Michael Omartian
Peak on the US Billboard 200: 6

Side One Side Two
Say You'll Be Mine
I Really Don't Know Anymore
Never Be The Same
Poor Shirley
Ride Like The Wind
The Light Is On
Minstrel Gigolo

Charted singles: Hot 100 AC
Ride Like The Wind224
Never Be The Same151
Say You'll Be Mine20

From The CD Project:

I didn't own this album back in 1980, but it sounds like something I would have purchased if the songs hadn't been in constant heavy rotation on the radio stations I listened to.  It's a great collection of pop songs.  Allmusic says this: "soft rock albums hardly ever came better than this, and it remains one of the best mainstream albums of its time."  At the time though, most critics panned this album, but it sold 6x platinum and won 5 Grammy awards including, unfortunately, the dreaded Best New Artist while famously beating Pink Floyd's The Wall for Album Of The Year.  The songwriting is good, the supporting cast is top-notch LA studio personnel, and the production by Michael Omartian is tight.  My only complaint is that Cross doesn't properly articulate his lyrics.  Because of the mushmouth, my 14 year old mind constructed its fair share of mondegreens when listening to the singles on the radio.  Two examples:
Actual lyrics: "Lived nine lives, gunned down ten."
What I heard: "Live non-lives.  Gunga Din!"

Actual Lyrics: "It's not far back to sanity."
What I heard: "It's not far back to Sante Fe."  (How do you sail in Sante Fe?!?)
For this reason, it probably wasn't a good idea to have Michael McDonald sing backing vocals since on many tracks, he steals the show.

  • Say You'll Be Mine: High energy album opener that gets right to the chorus before we get to the first verse.  Sounds a little like Fleetwood Mac to these ears.  Nicolette Larson adds a nice contribution on vocals.
  • I Really Don't Know Anymore: Starts a lot like the lead single, Ride Like The Wind.  A Lot.  And then it slows to a half-time chorus with amazing background vocals by Michael McDonald and a tasty guitar solo Larry Carlton.
  • Spinning: A nice enough duet with Valarie Carter.  A mid-tempo ballad, its fairly innocuous.
  • Never Be The Same: This song is catchy enough with a syncopated chorus, but those temple blocks in the verse - it's almost too much.  That's gotta be the Midas-like touch of Jay Graydon on the guitar solo. 
  • Poor Shirley: After a slow start, this moves to a catchy chorus that reminds me of Carly Simon's Haven't Got Time For The Pain.

  • Ride Like The Wind:  A huge hit.  Kept out of the #1 spot by Blondie's Call Me. The wordless chorus was like nothing else on the radio at the time.  Again, McDonald steals the show vocally.
  • The Light Is On:  It's light fluff, but I really like the mid-tempo groove on this track.
  • Sailing:  Love it.  Immediately relaxing from the first orchestral chords.  Nice harmony vocals throughout and a beautiful simple piano solo that just fits.
  • Minstrel Gigolo:  This thing just plods along for 6 minutes.  I'll pass.

  1. Sailing
  2. Never Be The Same
  3. Ride Like The Wind
  4. Say You'll Be Mine
  5. I Really Don't Know Anymore
  6. The Light Is On
  7. Spinning
  8. Poor Shirley
  9. Minstrel Gigolo


  1. So let me get this straight:

    You didn't buy this record in 1980 because it was getting lots of airplay?

    Huh? Oh wait, was it a budget issue? Since you were hearing it for free on the radio you didn't want to spend the money? Or was it some sort of Buddhist, self-denial thing? To learn the "soft rock kid" didn't immediately procure one of the definitive albums of the genre is more than a little unsettling and speaks to credibility issues.

    Pretty sure my copy of the album showed up on my doorstep courtesy of the fine folks at Columbia House so I was a bit behind the curve as there tended to be a lag between an album's relase and when it was offered as the Selction of The Month. All I can say is "Ride Like The Wind" gets me all riled up and "Sailing" calms me down. Like you've said before, Cross gets bonus points for rocking the Earl Campbell jersey in TV appearances.

  2. Mark, I am pretty much with you on most of the tracks. My full review can be found here at my blog Martin's View.