Chris Thompson has no less than forty years as a singer in the music business behind him. He was born in Ashford, Kent, England, but raised in New Zealand. He went to Australia before returning to England in 1973 to pursue a musical career, eventually joining Manfred Mann's Earth Band in 1976. In 1978, he was featured in Jeff Wayne's Musical Version of The War Of The Worlds, providing lead vocals for the song Thunder Child. After several years with Manfred Mann's Earth Band, Thompson left in 1979 and formed the Los Angeles based outfit Night, which enjoyed two hits during its lifetime. In 1986, Chris was one of the co-writers of the hit song You're The Voice which became a worldwide hit, reaching top ten positions in many countries across the world when it was recorded by John Farnham. Furthermore he also worked with artists such as Bonnie Tyler, Mike Oldfield, Gary Moore, The Alan Parsons Project and Steve Hackett. He even had a short comeback with Manfred Mann's Earth Band. Moreover he released several albums on his own. Listening to his new compilation album Jukebox (The Ultimate Collection) is a perfect way to hear what he has been doing during his entire career. Although you have to keep in mind that not always can the original versions can be heard. But still!
The greatest asset of Chris Thompson is certainly his distinctive voice, but only the combination with the good choice of songs makes this album a thick recommendation. From the time with Manfred Mann we find the usual suspects. However this time most of them were recorded with his own live band. Which are of course the three Bruce Springsteen classics Blinded By the Light, For You and Spirits In The Night, the Bob Dylan covers Father Of Day, You Angel You and The Mighty Quinn, the Bob Marley cover Redemption Song and of course one of their biggest hits Davy's On The Road Again can't be left out. It's also nice to see that he did cover lesser known tunes from this band such as Martha's Madman, Don't Kill It Carol, Runner and Questions. The last title Manfred Mann's Earth Band never performed on stage during concerts. More of those facts can all be read in the liner notes he wrote himself about all of the featured tracks on this double album. Besides the progressive rock related compositions from his former band, this release of course includes work from other periods in his musical life such as music from his years with the earlier mentioned Night. Their hits Hot Summer Night and If You Remember Me are both included and move more towards the mainstream-songs which are more radio friendly in general. This collection of songs is certainly not complete without a wonderful version of You're The Voice. This time sung by himself in an excellent way. Songs from his latest studio album Toys & Dishes (2014) are included as well. It's represented with five pieces. Namely Dark Side, Million Dollar Wonder Hit, Millie Christine, Eddie Wants To Rock, Dream Away Little Girl. The rest of the track list on both discs is worth listening as well even if you are into progressive rock only such as the bluesy songs Whole Lot To Give and One Man Mission, or the typical eighties sound on Beat Of Love, or the orchestral Zu Leben (To Live). Even the weird cover of Fleetwood Mac classic Don't Stop is worth listening-and what about the excellent guitar parts of Brian May on A Shift In The Wind? They just sound like music to my ears. You also have to hear the excellent acoustic version of the earlier mentioned Thunder Child.
Sure I am not going to mention all of the 36 pieces on this fine release. But believe me Jukebox - The Ultimate Collection is certainly worth checking out. I also do know that it's not the first compilation of Chris Thompson. And much of this best of disc you already know and might have heard before. But still the many alternative versions of the classic tunes of Manfred Mann's Earth Band gave me enough musical enjoyment to play them several times. This collection provides above all a wonderful overview of the man's rich and varied career-a fairly homogeneous set where progressive rock, classic-rock, blues-rock and pop-rock intersect. All of the songs are telling you the true story os what Chris has been doing the last forty years of his life.
***+ Henri Strik (edited by Robert James Pashman)
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