THE ALBUM -- "Christopher Cross," Warner Bros. (BSK 3383). THE SHOW -- At the Bayou, Sunday at 8 and 11.
Record company executives dream of this kind of first-try success.Christopher Cross's debut album, at the top of the sales charts, is a pleasant if slippery collection of romantic pop-rock tunes. But no matter how many times you hear them, only a couple of the wispy songs are distinct enough to stick in memory.
"Christopher Cross" gets by with a little help from a few bigger-name performers, rounding out tunes all penned by Cross. Country vocalist Nicolette Larson does a winning background vocal on "Say You'll Be Mine," a harmless little love song. Soloist Valerie Carter soars through the soothing, airy "Spinning." J. D. Souther (who co-wrote the Eagles' hit, "Best of My Love") and Eagle member Don Henly provide simple backups on another cut, and Mike McDonald of the Doobies donates his vocal skills as well. There's lots of seasoned talent to give the newcomer a hand, but not much gusto.
From one sappy track to the next, the Texas-bred Romeo's pretty voice plus acoustic and electric guitar licks Chris-cross through innocent songs about the possibilities of love -- "is it a game to be played?" -- and lost love -- "it was good for me/it was good for you." He pours on sweet sentiment without getting into sticky details. It's cotton-candy music with several tasty touches: a lovely interlude by Chuck Findley on fluegelhorn and a nice mesh of electric piano, synthesizer and celesta (which sounds like a glockenspiel) on "Spinning." Nice, but when it's all over, you're ready for something high in protein.
The cut dedicated to the late Lowell George (of Little Feat fame) is clearly the album's standout. "Ride Like the Wind" actually tells a story: the singer's on the run to Mexico and freedom. And it develops an edgy, more believable feel than the sugary odes to romance. For once, Cross's vocals are turbulent and charged with energy, unlike the whiny high-pitched froth he delivers elsewhere. It's possible the band sweated a bit on this one.
While the final and longest track on the LP evaporates like most of the others, it's an interesting account of his amazement at the seductive power of a song: You're the minstrel gigolo don't you know You sing your songs of love so soft and low And they want you more and more
. . . So much, it seems, they leave the stage door and rush to their local record stores to pick him up. He must be right: the disc is selling briskly, wooing the masses with smooth polyvinyl rock.