Christopher Cross – Doctor Faith (2011)

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The new Doctor Faith, Christopher Cross’ first original studio album in 12 years, occasionally finds him taking a darker — hell, I’ll just say it, crankier — view of things.

The first clue that there might be a few bumps in the road back for Cross is the absence of the pink flamingo — a sentimental (OK, silly) presence on his album covers. Close your eyes, then, and you can see an old guy in a wifebeater and suspenders waving his fist at passersby as Cross runs through “Hey Kid” and “I’m Too Old for This.” Worse, there’s a preachy mawkishness to tracks like “Still I Resist” and “Prayin.’”

Maybe that’s to be expected of Cross, 60, who won five Grammys including best new artist in 1980, after “Sailing” shot to No. 1, then a best original song Oscar in 1981 for “Arthur’s Theme (Best That You Can Do)” — only to all but disappear in the ensuing years. Who could have guessed, though, that we’d ever hear Christopher Cross (think of “Laura,” for chrissakes!) pissing and moaning?

By the time he gets to the title track, thankfully, a few rays of sunshine begun to leak out. Mirroring Cross’ post-debut career trajectory, however, even “Doctor Faith” takes a while to get going — too long. Alas, Michael McDonald (who powered “Ride Like The Wind” with Cross in 1979) returns, but to no avail at first. Finally, as Cross moves past that stuttering, uneven preamble, he regains the likeably smooth AM musicality that made Christopher Cross into a smash hit.

Whatever his broader intentions, Doctor Faith (Eagle Rock Entertainment/Ear Music) is at its best when he settles into that kind of expected balladry. In these moments — from “November,” the sad story of a fading love, to the redemptive “Help Me Cry” — it sounds as if Cross never left. That can be a good thing (for those who consider him the father of the adult contemporary format) or a bad thing (see previous). But it almost never fails to be a comfortable thing.

Cross, a guy who puts the easy in easy listening, is clearly trying to move past that. But the rumpled Bob Dylan attitude just looks silly on him.

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Nick DeRiso

Nick DeRiso

Nick DeRiso has written for USA Today, American Songwriter, All About Jazz, and a host of others. Honored as columnist of the year five times by the Associated Press, Louisiana Press Association and Louisiana Sports Writers Association, he oversaw a daily section named Top 10 in the U.S. by the AP before co-founding Something Else! Nick is now associate editor of Ultimate Classic Rock.
Nick DeRiso
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