Christopher Cross,
Doctor Faith
(Eagle, 2011)

Yes, he's that Christopher Cross. He's the one who won the Grammy in 1980 for Best New Artist. We remember him most for the tunes "Ride Like the Wind," "Arthur's Theme (Best That You Can Do)" and "Sailing." No doubt the last time many of us even heard his name mentioned was during reruns of the 1997 "Millennium" episode of Seinfeld, when Newman and Kramer were both promoting their turn-of-the-century parties. Newman claimed to have the idea first, saying, "I started planning this in 1978. I put a deposit down on that revolving restaurant that overlooks Times Square, and I booked Christopher Cross." It was a great and funny line, because by the mid-1990s, Cross's songs were no longer heard on mainstream radio stations. Newman had seemingly made his fictitious arrangements too far in advance.

It might surprise you to know that Cross has released at least eight albums (including some compilation and Christmas volumes) in the years since his first hits reached the airwaves. Doctor Faith is his first all-new studio offering in 12 years. The CD contains 13 songs performed in a variety of styles. But don't worry: you'll recognize his voice right away.

Composing and singing love songs might be a fine occupation when you're in your early 30s. But what does a guy write about when he hits 60, as Christopher Cross just did? Well, for starters, he gives the younger generation some advice with the opening song, "Hey Kid." Then he admits in the next selection that "I'm Too Old for This," a tune that sounds like something fellow Texan Don Henley would pen or sing. Both are bouncy melodies with relatable lyrics for us Baby Boomers.

But love, romance and interpersonal relationships have to enter the picture. Many of the songs on this album touch on those issues. "When You Come Home" is an apologetic anticipation of the grateful return of one's partner. "November" uses the time-worn analogy of the seasons of life and the resulting treat of "watching love grow old" while "under a topaz sky." The upbeat and brass-infused "Leave It to Me" (which, along with "Hey Kid," resembles the work of country-rocker Steve Azar) argues for someone to take a chance on the narrator. That notion is further expanded in "Rescue," which features David Mann's soprano sax interlude and the memorable chorus, "I will rescue you from behind your garden wall / And I will be there when you fall." The song "Poor Man's Ecstasy" is the verification of someone who cannot believe his good fortune in life: "Who knew / What love was / Who knew how good it could be."

Mann's saxophone returns in "Everything," the ultimate love song. Throughout the verses, we feel as though we're just on the edge of something old and familiar. Christopher Cross can't help it. Many of his melodies contain sustained notes that take the listener right back to the sounds of "Sailing."

"Dreamers" is a three-quarter time waltz, which breaks up the progression nicely with its pace and with its observations of everyday folk. "Still I Resist" describes the need to deal with daily struggles: "And even though I know / It all begins by letting go / Still I resist." The title song, "Doctor Faith," can be interpreted in several ways. On the surface, it sounds as though a patient is confiding in a psychotherapist. But is it more religious than at first consideration? The final cut on the CD, "Prayin'," reintroduces three-quarter time to share the benediction of a once-reluctant penitent man. It even ends with several "Amens." The listener has to wonder just how faith-related this album is. Maybe another go-round is in order, just to find out.

The only song that I'm not fond of here is "Help Me Cry." Its story tells of a man asking a woman to help him learn how to cry. His request and her responses don't quite seem realistic enough. I skip over this selection now. But I still keep the disc in my car, to provide background to my daily commutes and my upcoming long-distance vacations.

While some of this music is memorable enough to stay with you for a while, the song that my brain now constantly returns to, hours after listening to the album, is "Sailing." It's not on this CD, and it's been years since I've heard it on the radio. And yet, Cross's distinctive voice keeps reminding me of that No. 1 flowing chorus from 1980: "Sailing / Takes me away / To where I've always heard it could be. / Just a dream and the wind to carry me, / And soon I will be free." It's a soothing, relaxing memory.

Back in the early 1980s, Christopher Cross's music was a refreshing respite from the disco era. Thirty years later, it can serve as an alternative to your teenager's hip-hop drone or the passing sports car's booming bass beat. Pop in this CD when you're in the mood for some adult contemporary accompaniment to whatever task you might be involved with. I'm betting that the sound will lead you too back to "Sailing." And that might not be a bad thing.

[ visit the artist's website ]

music review by
Corinne H. Smith

16 July 2011

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