Wednesday, September 17, 2014

CHRISTOPHER CROSS - Secret Ladder (2014)

CHRISTOPHER CROSS - Secret Ladder (2014) full


CHRISTOPHER CROSS made history with his 1980 self-titled debut album, and the man also released some fine AOR albums during that decade. Now, the Texan whose 'Sailing', 'Arthur’s Theme (Best That You Can Do)' — which claimed an Oscar — and 'Ride Like the Wind' are mentioned among the greatest adult contemporary/pop hits in history, is releasing his 14th album, the exceptional “Secret Ladder”.

I always liked Cross' sweet voice and penchant for writing excellent melodies, but after more than two decades I lost the trace of his art. Far from being 'an old man living from his heyday hits', Christopher Cross has really surprised me with “Secret Ladder”.
This is a strong album. An 'angry' album.
While the lovely 'Sailing' marked Cross as an era-defining balladeer, this new record is less a showcase for his still wonderfully smooth voice that easily reaches the high register he claimed more than three decades ago, more an opportunity to let off steam about things that piss him off.
And there's some serious cats helping him with homework; amongst great session musicians we find drummer Keith Carlock (Steely Dan, Toto, Sting), Michael McDonald on vocals and super-talented Eric Johnson on two tracks.

Christopher Cross is no longer “all caught up in the reverie,” he’s more concerned with getting a few things off his chest. It’s like he’s “caught between the moon and New York City,” and he’s willing to sling a few verbal barbs to fight his way out. And Rock music fans are the lucky benefactors.
Maybe Cross’ most ardent fans will be taken aback by such “Secret Ladder” lines as “I watched the bastards break your heart and never give a damn …” “It’s a beautiful world filled with stupid people …” “Oooh, this life can surely kick your ass …” “We’ll see who hits the wall before we’re through …” and “The old and the sad and the weak were the people you reached …”

CHRISTOPHER CROSS - Secret Ladder (2014) cd photo

Cross even assures listeners that he’s self-aware of the bile that served as his primary muse on “Secret Ladder”, proclaiming himself 'toxic with anger' and 'wondering how I became an island of anger in a sea of love'.
He leads the album off with the opinionated “Reverend Blowhard,” where Cross saves much of his venom for televangelists whose business plan is to take every penny they can from their unsuspecting 'flock' looking for something — anything — to believe in and hold onto. Melodically and rhythmically, it packs a Steely Dan groove but also an Eric Johnson's '90s works vibe, perhaps because Johnson contributes with an excellent guitar solo.

But, lest fans worry that these biting lyrics are signs of a man who’s lost touch with the elegance that produced such musical beauty years ago, rest assured that the album has plenty of tender moments.
In fact, “Simple” rivals his 1980 Single of the Year as perhaps Cross’ most lovely tune, his dream-like voice coming in over simple piano accompaniment.
Also the upbeat “Light the World” is an example of Cross’ ability to elicit joy, while the haunting “V” ranks as one of the most beautiful songs of heartbreak ever written. Over lush and lovely strings, the singer describes a friend’s breakup as 'the deepest pain you’ll ever know'.
“Got To Be A Better Way” is pure '80s Westcoast, floating over a smooth melodic line and an extended guitar work in the best LA session style.
Eric Johnson shines again on the very good "Wonderland", a rhythmically superb rock song with spiraling melodies, strong lead vocals and a terrific solo.

CHRISTOPHER CROSS - Secret Ladder (2014) back cover

An artist that does not rest over the laurels of past victories, Christopher Cross surprises with “Secret Ladder”, a record which show his full potential as a songwriter and a talented musician who continues to create and explore music at his 63.
These are songs with substance, solid and superbly arranged, played and produced. You should give this a proper listen, no matter which is your preferred musical genre.
Very Recommended.

01 - Reverend Blowhard
02 - I Don't See It Your Way
03 - The Times I Need You
04 - Island Of Anger
05 - V
06 - Experiment
07 - Simple
08 - Wonderland
09 - Light The World
10 - With Me Now
11 - Got To Be A Better Way
12 - A Letter To My Children

Christopher Cross: Vocals, Guitar
Will Lee: Bass
Keith Carlock: Drums
Eddy Hobizal: Keyboards
David Mann: Sax
Michael McDonald, Jeff Foskett: guest Vocals
Eric Johnson: guest Guitar solos



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