Top positive review
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An Overlooked Classic
on 28 October 2008
The Road To Hell marks the peak of Chris Rea's career on a commercial scale, although in truth it only really contains one hit - the title track. That should not detract, however, as this is a fine, tight album, where all of the songs fit together very well. In a way, you could call it a concept album - Rea's take on the wrongs of the world; the songs flow from anger to despair, to just wanting to get away from the modern world. That said there's still the occasional love song ('Your Warm And Tender Love' and 'Just Want To Be With You'), although here they take on more of an edgier feel than his previous work.
Listening to this album nearly 20 years since its release, I'd say it's aged rather well - modern production ethics abound, while the sheer intricacy of Rea's music is a joy to behold. The slide guitar is there, mainly angry and powerful, together with an abundant array of 'normal' riffing; this is Rea's hard rock album. Keyboards are used well - in moderation, and making the right sounds. This was 1989, and some people had begun to realise what bad keyboard sounds were. Strings are present too, together with some other interesting samples (including radio DJs and one beast of a car!).
It's hard to pick highlights from an album that gels so well, and where the quality is maintained at such a high level. That said, personal favourites are 'Texas' (hear Chris' blues instincts come good in a cracking mid-section riff and outro), 'Daytona' (one of his best songs in my opinion, which builds into an understated epic), and 'Looking For A Rainbow' (starts off as light relief before the pangs of anger and despair float back, to end what would have been a troubled side A).
This is not only one of Chris' best albums, but one of the best of all time in my opinion; Chris has something to sing about, and he puts it across in a powerful and musically complex, yet focussed and disciplined way. It's a tight and honed album which, sadly, seems to have slipped past the critical radar in recent times. Hopefully one day it'll be recognised again for what it is - a magnificent and highly original piece of work. 5/5.