He's been around for quarter of a century and while rarely trendy, Rea always seems capable of oozing class. While the influences of Joe Walsh (Eagles) and Ry Cooder drive his guitar playing, his early albums, "Whatever Happened To Benny Santini" and "Deltics" were smooth affairs, produced by the late Gus Dudgeon (best known for work with Elton John) spawning the classic "Fool If You Think It's Over" and wonderful "Seabird". Modest commercial success came in the early eighties, as Europe took to the LP "Water Sign" and the pop like "I Can Hear Your Heartbeat". Liverpool FC entered the arena for the 1984 European Cup Final in Rome singing "I Don't Know What It Is But I Love It" - another pop masterpiece that led the reds to victory, but it was other tracks from the album "Wired To The Moon", in particular "Ace Of Hearts" that underlined the strength of Rea's music. Competing against the Dire Straits classic "Brothers In Arms", 1985 saw Rea release "Shamrock Diaries", a sombre but brilliant piece of work spawning the single "Stainsby Girls" with it's wonderful driving guitar solo. The mellow magic of "On The Beach", together with tracks like "Hello Friend" and "Just Passing Through" showed how versatile Rea's sound had become, and when his best album, "Dancing With Strangers" was released in 1987, hits such as "Let's Dance" and "Loving You Again" were overshadowed by the truly haunting ballad "September Blue" - perhaps Rea's defining 3 minutes! Magic moments followed, such as "The Road To Hell" and "God's Great Banana Skin", not to leave out the album "Auberge" which ranks alongside "Dancing With Strangers" for consistancy from start to finish and has
a wonderful sketch of a Caterham Seven racing car on the cover. "The Blue Cafe" and "Espresso Logic" had their moments, there was, until the release of "King Of The Beach" fear that his best work was behind him. Depsite the dire "Road To Hell Part II" experiment, Rea's last release "King Of The Beach" was an excellent return to form, with the title track and "Bones Of Angels" memorable. The excellence of this album all the more extraordinary given that it was made either side of a life threatening operation to remove his pancreas! A new release is due, "Dancing On The Stony Road" and by all accounts, it is something to look forward too! In Summary, while Rea does have the occasional Sting moment (ie he disappears up his own backside), the vast majority of his work is high quality, enjoyable, and a true reflection of a talent that has deserved more recognition than being a regular runner up at the Brit Awards in the late eighties / early nineties! A voice and guitar sound that must be investigated!