NO ONE SINGS LIKE YOU ANYMORE
On his much-lauded ‘Songbook’ tours, Chris performed his own interpretations of songs by everyone from The Beatles and Syd Barrett to Bruce Springsteen and Led Zeppelin. He always insisted that “if a song is great, it can be approached from a totally different angle and it still holds up.”
On covers album No One Sings Like You Anymore – the title taken from one of his own most famous lyrics – he did just that, encompassing songs he hadn’t yet performed live. He reimagines Janis Joplin’s blues-rocker ‘Get It While You Can’ as a piece of quirky pop. He adds an authentically American edge to ELO’s 1970s faux-funk single ‘Showdown’ and gives Guns n’ Roses’ ‘Patience’ an air of elegant introspection.
“Chris chose most of the songs,” recalls producer and multi-instrumentalist Brendan O’Brien, who also worked with him on his previous album, Higher Truth. “And we went out to various friends, people in the business, people he respected, to see what they thought…we compiled a bit of a list.” Much of the power of the performances comes from lyrics with which Chris could identify, like John Lennon’s ‘Watching The Wheels.’ His wife Vicky recalls, “The song resonated with him, he connected to it personally – it was about Lennon changing his whole life from engaging in what was self-destructive behaviour, to deciding he was done with that, he was going to put family first.”
Chris’s children remember the sessions as a positive time in the family’s life. “It was fun – we’d take our piano lessons there and Christopher would play video games with Brendan and my dad”, says daughter Toni. “We had so much fun in the studio,” remembers son Christopher. “We’d play hide and go seek through the Beverly Hills Hotel and sometimes security would come and then they’d see my dad playing with us.”
Chris recasts Terry Reid’s poignant plea for compassion “To Be Treated Right” in a rootsy, western style redolent of Johnny Cash. “Chris had seen betrayal by friends and in relationships where he trusted people who let him down, and that’s always the worst when it comes from those closest to you,” says Vicky. “It cuts deeper than if it comes from an enemy. Chris believed in good – but he knew life wasn’t fair. Expecting always to be treated right wasn’t realistic, but he always tried to see the light and the hope in life.”
Things were kept simple in the studio. “Chris really got off on working in a fairly small circle,” says Brendan O’Brien, “the circle being just the two of us for the most part. Chris was a fantastic guitar player…we really didn’t need much outside help.” Like the ‘Songbook’ solo shows, the studio-recorded covers on No One Sings Like You Anymore were designed as an intimate listening experience. “These were songs he’d have been able to go out and perform on his own…it’s not a band record,” says O’Brien. The final song choice and sequencing was put together by Chris himself out of the wealth of material from the sessions.
As the title suggests, this is above all a singer’s album. On covers of 60’s soul classics like the Lorraine Ellison hit ‘Stay With Me Baby’ and Carl Hall’s ‘You Don’t Know Nothing’, Chris uses the instinctive feel for soul and gospel heard on his work with Temple Of The Dog to deliver some truly dazzling vocals. Other songs, like ‘Sad Sad City’ from contemporary electro duo Ghostland Observatory, are transformed by the keening power of his voice.
No One Sings Like You Anymore is a bittersweet reflection of some of the songs and artists Chris most loved, and of the breadth of his artistry as a singer and a musician.