Walking In Avalon

Christopher Cross

CMC International Records, 1998


REVIEW BY: Christopher Thelen


Shortly before Denise Henderson left the review panel of "The Daily Vault," we got to talking about upcoming releases. I mentioned that I read on CMC International's Web site there was going to be a new release from Christopher Cross. Her response to me was, "Oh, he's still around?"

Fact is, Cross never left - he just dropped off the radio radar after hits like "Arthur's Theme (Best That You Can Do)" and "Think Of Laura" in the first half of the '80s. Musical tastes, always a fickle thing, did a 180 degree turn from the gentle type of music that Cross was creating. This, combined with the fact that Cross decided to write songs from the heart and not meant to hit the top of the charts, almost spelled career suicide. (The last many people heard of him was when he wrote a song that was used on the TV show Growing Pains.)

But the '90s are a decade of once-forgotten musicians to come out of the gates swinging, and Cross does so with Walking In Avalon, a two-disc set combining both new studio work and a live show which wraps up Cross's career to that point. And both are done remarkably well.

Whether Cross is writing songs that are meant to hit the charts or not, the music on the studio portion of this disc is some of the best I've heard from him ever. The first single, "When She Smiles," is a Cinderella-type story for the '90s (complete with its reference to Starbucks) that is a catchy, heart-warming number that, given the right breaks, should be a major hit on the AC charts. (Here's hoping some radio programmers grow a set of balls - yeah, you know who you are - and actually give this song and album a chance.) The title track, another wonderful love song, shows how oil-and-water couples can find common ground and co-exist together ("It's cool that I like John and you like Paul" is one sample lyric).my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

But not all on Walking In Avalon is all smiles. On "Hunger," Cross sings about the loss of a lover, and the hesitation one feels when faced with the possibility of finding this person again ("I'm scared that I'll find you / I'm scared even more I never will"). The approach taken on this song is both spooky and enthralling.

The pop anthems just roll off the disc faster than you can keep track. "It's Always Something" might seem a little corny at the start, but it quickly turns itself into a poerful song with an infectious chorus. Likewise, "Kind Of I Love You" is another track that could equal some of the biggest success Cross has had in his career, if only the fates align for him.

The second half of Walking In Avalon is the equivalent of a "greatest-hits live" package - but seeing it's been well over a decade since Cross had major success on the airwaves, this will most likely serve as an introduction of his past catalog to new listeners. The show does one thing that's the hardest to do on live albums: it captures a lot of the magic that the actual live performance created. (This doesn't mean I wouldn't mind seeing a video of this concert come out soon - the people at Best Buy are beginning to forget what I look like.)

The older songs that made Cross a household name for a while, such as "Ride Like The Wind," "Sailing" and "Arthur's Theme (Best That You Can Do)," have lost none of their magic, and have even become better thanks to the fact that you rarely hear these cuts anymore. The old saying is true: absence does make the heart grow fonder. It's wonderful to hear these songs again, performed almost exactly the way I remember them. (Even Michael McDonald returns to add harmony vocals to "Ride Like The Wind".)

Of all these songs, two stand out in my mind. "Think Of Laura," to be honest, was a puke-and-gag song when I was a teenager, simply because it was used in conjunction with a soap opera. In fact, the song was written for a friend of Cross's who died far too young. In this context, and over a decade removed from its glory days, the song becomes one of Cross's most beautiful works ever. The other song, "Deputy Dan," is an autobiographical song about Cross's chosen career path and, as he called it, the "fifteen minutes of fame" he experienced. (Somehow, I don't think that Cross is bitter that he didn't remain a big name all this time; it's given him a chance to succeed on his own terms.)

Admittedly, I was a little skeptical about Cross's work in 1998 when I first heard about Walking In Avalon (I'm a rock critic; it's my job to assume there are grey clouds behind silver linings). But this album captures all the magic that Cross created in 1981 and freshly reworks it for today. The biggest drawback he's going to have is audience apathy... though I think that would disappear faster than a plate of pasta in front of Dom DeLuise once people hear the music.

Cross once owned the airwaves with his own style of pop music. If radio gives Walking In Avalon a fair shot on the air (you know what that means, kids... call your favorite station and demand they play the damn thing), and people listen to the album with an open mind, they'll discover the same thing I did. Even if Cross has been around all this time, he's definitely a front runner for Comeback Of The Year with this album.

Rating: A-

User Rating: Not Yet Rated



© 1998 Christopher Thelen and The Daily Vault. All rights reserved. Review or any portion may not be reproduced without written permission. Cover art is the intellectual property of CMC International Records, and is used for informational purposes only.