Christopher Cross was one of the biggest success stories of the eighties, mining gold with such hits as “Sailing” and “Arthur’s Theme (The Best That You Can Do).” He won the Grammy in 1980 for “Best New Artist” and charted eight times between 1980 and 1983. But the momentum didn’t last and his star fell as quickly as it rose.
It’s been twelve years since Cross released an album of new material. During that time there have been compilations, live albums and collaborations with other artists. Unfortunately, for the most part, these projects went unnoticed.
Cross does have a sweet, strong voice and a talent for conjuring up pretty melodies, which is evident on his new release, Doctor Faith. The album has its moments but the production and a good portion of the material sound dated. And when Cross does attempt to “get with the times,” his efforts are only partly successful.
The album opens with “Hey Kid,” on which Cross plays the old guy giving advice to a youngster just starting out in the world. It is a promising beginning. The catchy melody and guest artist Eric Johnson’s chunky guitar make this song as good as Cross’s best work. The song’s narrator is a realist; he knows he is aging but rails against the passing of time: “Go have your fun/ I surely had my share/ But I’m not done/ Look around I might be there/ With my cane and a song.” “Hey Kid” has both humor and charm.
This is not the case with “I’m Too Old For This,” Cross’s heavy-handed political statement. With lyrics like, “Fancy churches preaching hate thy neighbor/ Corporate lies growing louder every day/ Folks too scared to know they’re being taken/ TV news is poison but we just can’t turn away,” he comes across as passionate yet sadly out of his league. Bob Dylan he is not.
He shines when he sticks to what he does best: love songs and flights of fancy. The finest song on the album is “November,” a story of a slowly dying love affair. Its opening imagery of a “Moth on the windowpane/ Could be alive or dead,” coupled with a delicate melody and gentle, poetic storytelling makes this an effective, moving work. Too bad Cross couldn’t bottle what he’s done here and brew it into an album’s worth of consistently good material.
The majority of the remaining songs are unmemorable, like leftovers from an earlier era. And the cloying album closer, “Prayin’,” might have been better left on the cutting room floor.
Christopher Cross is a talented singer-songwriter. Sadly there are only fleeting glimpses of that talent on Doctor Faith.