Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Chris De Burgh - Spanish Train And Other Stories

Of all the artists I grew up listening to, Chris De Burgh was the most unique. I have only ever had one other friend that honestly knew who he was. Aside from, "the guy that wrote Lady In red", and most people don't even know that. Then again, how many people even know Lady In Red anymore.

Chris De Burgh is not very big in North America. He's too complex for the American market, and they don't know what to make of him. Jamming him into either Adult Contemporary or Easy Listening. I understand why, but both are wrong.

However, from what I understand, from Quebec through the Maritimes he is more popular. I can only base this on three things. The Montreal area is where my parents got into him, I've heard a reference to Chris De Burgh on The Trailer Park Boys, of all places, and conversations with my dad.

The first thing to understand is that this artist is a story teller. His lyrics are carefully crafted to tell a very clear story, and the music is written to suit the lyrical content, or the period of the song. I don't even know what the proper description is musically for some of these songs.

Another thing is that you can't be a fan of any specific genre of music, if you are going to like him. You have to like all types of music, because that's what you get. There is no way to nail the Spanish Train album down to any specific type of music. The album open with Spanish Train. This is the story of the battle between God and The Devil for human souls, as played through a game of poker. Musically the song is just very well played. There is no real form or shape to the music. Most of it is used to convey emotion, and help the story along. It takes until the climax of the story until any type of real form shows up in the music, about 3:30 in the song. Even then it's still very free form.

"The cold north wind they call "La Bise" / Is swirling round about my knees, / Trees are crying leaves into the river; / I'm huddled in this french cafe / I never thought I'd see the day, / But winter's here and summer's really over, / Even the birds have packed up and gone, / They're flying south with their song, / And my love, she too has gone, she had to fly, / Take care, it's such a lonely sky, / They'll trap your wings my love and hold your flight, / They'll build a cage and steal your only sky, / Fly away, fly to me, fly when the wind is high, /I'm sailing beside you in your lonely sky". This sounds just like something you'd hear in the mentioned french cafe, around the time of World War I. It's a very pretty song, and so well written and performed. It's not that I'm overly fond of Lonely Sky, but that doesn't mean it's not good.

This Song For You more or less continues where Lonely Sky left off. It sounds like a little extra production was put on to make the music sound like it may have been recorded on a cylinder instead of a record. It's just so well done. If nothing else Chris De Burgh tells a fantastic story with great emotion.

There's a joke in The Full Monty and when one of the working stiffs refer to one of the dancing males as Patricia The Stripper. That song is next on the list, and it is so typically 1930's cabaret that you can't help but love it. I mean this song reeks of sex appeal and that's before the lyrics even kick in. But these were classy lyrics, not just some crap ass "Hey baby, take it off, and show us your tits." There's is nothing of that sort in these lyrics. "You see Patricia, or Delicia, not only is a singer / She also removes all her clothing... / For Patricia is the best stripper in town, / And with a swing of her hips she started to strip, / To tremendous applause she took off her drawers, / And with a lick of her lips she undid all the clips, / Threw it all in the air, and everyone stared, / And as the last piece of clothing fell to the floor, / The police were banging on the door, / On a Saturday night, in nineteen twenty-four... / Take it away boys!"

There are two songs on this album that are very Christianity inspired, but both are done in such amazing context that you'd never know. The first one is A Spaceman Came Travelling. This is the story of a being from another planet coming to Earth and discovering a child with a bright light of silver around his head. This song is the tale of the Angel that came to the shepherds when Jesus was born, but with a slightly different take to it.

I'm Going Home is one of the most typical songs on this album. It sounds like it would have easily fit in on any 1970's Hollywood picture about any type of travel. It's not bad, just not anything special. It's not like the rest of this album. It doesn't have that storytelling free flow, and Jazz-like edge.

I found it really funny when I found out that my dad and the few of his friends didn't like The Painter all that much. Musically I think it's fantastic, it has this great feel in the verses that's light and fluffy. Then you move into the pre-chorus, which has a kickin' pick up. It gets you moving and bouncing. Then the chorus kicks in, and you are just rolling along for the rest of the journey. One of my favourite parts about The Painter is the sax work, and the way that Chris goes nuts with vengeance as the song unfolds.

The next two songs on the album are Old Friend and The Tower. The first one is a pretty little number, that's basically a stroll down memory lane. This song is heavy on the horns, and has that music sound I described on tracks two and three.

The Tower is very slow and mellow. I find it a little too mellow for me, and I normally end up skipping it. However, this is one of those songs that you are meant to sit back and listen to as the story unfolds and brings tears to our eyes. The accoustic work is fantastic and I love the classical picking on top of the strumming. The album finishes with my second favourite Chris De Burgh song. My favourite is not on this album, and is the subject of the joke I mentioned earlier.

Just Another Poor Boy is the story of Christ, Mary Magdaline and his eventual execution. You'd never know this by the lyrics, unless you are using some brain power, or at the minimum are paying attention to the words. "He was but a traveller on the lonely road of life, / She, her name was Mary, a lady of the night, / She found him lying in that road, on a winter's night so cold, / Just another poor boy, treat him right; / She saw that he was hungry and gave him food to eat, / She knew that he was weary and he had no place to sleep, / She took him home to her own bed, she lay down his wounded head, / And washed away the world from his hands and his feet, / He was just another poor boy, just another poor boy, / When he cried out in his sleep she held him tight, / Just another poor boy, just another poor boy, / And she gave him love and comfort through the night, / Till the morning's light... / At night she sat beside him, by the fire he would talk, / He said all men were brothers and that love could conquer all, / Many gathered round to hear, many for his life did fear, / In troubled times like these men seldom talked. / Oh they came for him one morning at the breaking of the day, / She woke to hear him calling as they carried him away, / Accusing him of spreading lies and hate, / His public meetings were a danger to the state, / Some soldier said "Who was he anyway?"/ Just another poor boy, just another poor boy, / And the tears were falling from her face like rain, / Just another poor boy, just another poor boy, / And they hung him on a hillside far away, / And on the ground she lay ... poor boy ... oh my Lord... /". Then right about here the electric guitar with a wah-wah pedal kicks in, and the song just rips it up until the end. but, continuing with "Oh my Lord ... oh my Lord... / Just another poor boy, just another poor boy, / And the tears were falling from her face like rain, / Just another poor boy, just another poor boy, / And they hung him on a hillside far away, just another poor boy, / Just another poor boy, just another poor boy, / And she never dreamed she'd see his face again..." My only complaint is that the guitar wasn't cranked up in the mix. There's this really awesome work going on in the background that you can really only hear properly through headphones.

I have taken more teasing, and taunting over my enjoyment of early Chris De Burgh than I have for liking any other band or musician. With the exception of maybe Styx, but that doesn't help my argument in defending the awesomeness of this poet, musician, and all around fantastic story teller.

I also think, based on personal experience, this album is great for camping. Especially around a camp fire, while playing cards.

8/10 - content

8/10 - production

9/10 - personal bias

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