One Fine Day provides an intriguing snapshot of an artist at a pivotal moment in his career.

Chris Rea first emerged in 1978 thanks mostly to the US hit single Fool If You Think It’s Over from his debut album. Eventually he would go on to hit the big time in the mid-late 80s with a string of big selling albums and a sequence of memorable hit singles (Road To Hell Part 2 and On The Beach foremost). But, back in 1980 Rea was struggling after the albums Deltics and Tennis had failed to make a commercial impact. It was at this time that he went into the studio and recorded and self-produced this set of songs that have only emerged now on this limited edition CD+Vinyl package. As such, One Fine Day provides an intriguing snapshot of an artist at a pivotal moment in his career.

Of the nine songs, three have never been released before, three subsequently appeared as B sides of singles in quite different versions, and three are songs that would be re-recorded a year later for his eponymous album (rather oddly, since it wasn’t his debut album!).

Chris Rea fans will immediately be drawn to the three new songs: If I Ever Break Free, an upbeat song with gospel touches in the chorus; Members Only, a fairly straight forward 12-bar blues tune; and One Night With You which sounds rather like Leonard Cohen being accompanied by an Oompah band! They are three pleasant songs but it’s certainly not a scandal that they haven’t been released before.

The remaining six songs allow an interesting comparison with versions that were subsequently released, and in my view these original versions are often better.  One Sweet Tender Touch is a case in point. It is recorded here brilliantly as a slow emotional bluesy song which sadly gets speeded up into a mainstream pop tune with the piano and Hammond replaced by a layer of sugary synths.  Another chameleon-like song is Let Me Be The One, which originally appeared as a non-descript ballad on the B-side of Loving You, but here in its original guise is an infectious Springsteen-style rock’n’roll boogie. 

Rhino have also just released remastered versions of some of the classic albums of Rea from his period of commercial success. This album might not match up musically to those re-releases but it is a truly fascinating insight into the artist when on the cusp of that success.  

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