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Chris Anton Rea was born in Middlesbrough in North East England on 4th March 1951. Although he had a great interest in music he never played in local clubs, however thanks to a local club owner & promoter named John B. McCoy, Chris got a contract with Magnet records & McCoy became his manager.
Magnet records were owned by Michael Levy (a.k.a. Lord Levy) who was impressed enough with Chris Rea to release his first single in 1974 called 'So much love'.
The single didn't get much radio play & consequently failed to make any impression on the charts. However, that early set back didn't stop Chris Rea from writing fresh material & in 1977 he had completed a number of songs for a debut album.
Michael Levy felt that the songs were good but not great so he decided to approach Gus Dudgeon to see if he would produce the songs for the debut album. Dudgeon was famous for producing all the Elton John albums from 1970 - 1976 & as Elton was taking a break from recording & performing it was an ideal time for Dudgeon's new project.
The songs were produced by Dudgeon & although Chris Rea wasn't happy with the final cut, the album nevertheless went ahead. Michael Levy felt that the name Chris Rea wasn't right for his new protégée & suggested Chris changed his name to Benny Santini. Needless to say the suggestion went down like a lead balloon & I couldn't repeat what Chris said at the time.
Michael was concerned that the name Rea would be associated with diarrhoea & gonorrhoea but in the end decided to stick with Chris Rea.
The album was named 'Whatever Happened to Benny Santini?' & was released in 1978. At the time in the UK, punk music was at its peak & it wasn't a great time for a new artist to release an album if it wasn't punk music based. It was released in 1978 & failed to make any impression at all, it was also released in the U.S. & a single from it called 'Fool if you think it's over' was released & went to number 12 in the Billboard charts.
It actually made number one in the U.S. Adult contemporary charts & Chris was nominated for a 'Song of the Year Grammy' but lost out to another up & coming artist named Billy Joel.
After the success in the U.S. the album was re released in the UK & 'Fool (if you think it's over)' was also released in early 1979 on the back of the American success. The single made it to number 30 in the UK with a few more album sales but it wasn't until many years later & many singles & albums later that Chris Rea would become a successful artist.
The album features 10 tracks & the listings are:
1, Whatever happened to Benny Santini?
2, The closer you get
3, Because of you
4, Dancing with Charlie
5, Bows & bangles
6, Fool (if you think it's over)
7, Three angles
8, Just one of those days
9, Standing in the door way
10, Fires of spring
The album features a number of famous names including Rod Argent on keyboards & Pete Wingfield on keyboards. It was produced by Gus Dudgeon & engineered by Phil Dunne with Stuart Epps as assistant engineer.
As a first debut album it is actually quite good & I am convinced if it had been released prior to punk music making such an impact it would have been more successful. It is a mixture of slow ballads & raunchy up beat numbers with some great guitar work.
Chris Rea has a very distinctive raspy voice & is a very professional guitar player which this albums highlights.
The highlights of the album include the fast moving 'The closer you get', 'Three angles' & 'Fires of spring' but the best of all is the single 'Fool (If you think it's over)'.
It was Elkie Brooks who released this single in 1981 who brought it into the UK charts & although a great version the original is still the best.
Some of the tracks from the album were reworked many years down the line; it is thought that although Chris was never happy with the original recordings it was done to avoid some contractual agreement with royalties with his old manager.
The album cover is a little cheesy but at least the lyrics are included.
It took a while for Chris Rea to make a name for himself in the music business, but 30 years down the line, many albums later & a major health scare he is still going strong & has passed the 30 million record sales mark.
If you like some of his stuff then this is an album worth hunting down which can be purchased for as a little as £4.99, it is worth a listen.
Disc #1 Tracklisting
1 Whatever Happened To Benny Santini
2 Closer You Get
3 Because Of You
4 Dancing With Charlie
5 Bows And Bangles
6 Fool (If You Think It's Over)
7 Three Angels
8 Just One Of Those Days
9 Standing In Your Doorway
10 Fires Of Spring