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Songs fans can sing, too

Sarah Dixon
Special to the DailyClassic rocker Christopher Cross took off like a rocket with the release of his 1979 self-titled debut album. The album won him five Grammy awards, including Best Album, Best Song ("Sailing") and Best New Artist.
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BEAVER CREEK ” You know all the songs.

Yes, you.

Let’s be honest here ” you even sing along in the car. When you’re riding alone, that is.

With hits like “Sailing,” “Arthur’s Theme (Best That You Can Do),” “Ride Like the Wind,” and “Think of Laura” (to name a few of the plethora), Christopher Cross has one of the most recognizable voices of the 1980s. His sound was aptly dubbed “pop and roll” for its soft-rock nature and palatably melodic tone.

And he sways onto the Vilar Center stage Saturday at 8 p.m. to bring his classics back to life ” and even bring breath to some new tunes” for fans and first-time listeners alike.

release of his 1979 self-titled debut album. The album won him five Grammy awards, including Best Album, Best Song (“Sailing”) and Best New Artist.

“Sailing” was the kind of single that recalls an entire era; that of the ever-so-soft-rock sound that typified the early- and mid-1980s, smoothing out the airwaves after the disco explosion that preceded it.

And the album didn’t stop with “Sailing.” Hit singles “Ride Like the Wind,” “Say You’ll Be Mine,” and “Never Be the Same” followed suit, broadcasting Cross’ distinctive, melodic voice across the airwaves and up the charts.

His 1981 hit tune, “Think of Laura,” became the theme song for the popular soap opera General Hospital. He won an Oscar and a Golden Globe for the theme to “Arthur.”

But, as it happens, such wild success can be a friend on one hand and a lethal foe on the other. Indeed, Cross was so high some thought he could not get higher.

They were right.

Few people know that Cross went on to put out seven more albums. Or that he is, to this day, still penning original tunes and working on projects for the future.

But they’ll sing like hell when he plays his old hits.

“I don’t look a gift horse in the mouth,” Cross said from his home in California while on a break from his international summer tour. “I think it’s great that I had my 15 minutes of fame, and that I established my career and my name during that time.”

But Cross is no fool. He realizes that the explosive nature of his first album endangered the credibility and commercial success of all those that followed.

“It’s a double-edged sword,” he explained. “Everyone wants to get into it, why I wasn’t a continued commercial success. Do I wish I had a career like Sting’s? Absolutely. Anyone would like to have that longevity. But I’m glad that I have had the successes I have.”

Cross speaks with a friendly modesty and a realism about his past, present and future as a musician which make him unequivocally likeable.

Even his musical style is likeable. And make no mistake – Christopher Cross has no illusions about his music.

“It’s not revolutionary in its sound,” he said with modesty and an audible grin. “It’s pop rock music. It’s very typical of the 80’s, with some influence from the 60’s. I have a stylistic voice, and that is what people associate me with.”

And he’s not going anywhere anytime soon.

“I continue to do what I do, to make music and tour, because I love to do it,” he said. “Do I expect a huge commercial resurgence from my new material? Probably not. But you have to do it because you love to do it. This is a labor of love.”

And one thing Cross particularly loves is touring.

“I think one of the things that is most rewarding about playing for me is to meet the fans, hear their stories, shake their hands,” he said. “I realize, the older I get, there is a sense of mortality. I can’t do this forever.”

Cross describes his show as a purist approach to live music, just a man and his band on the stage.

“We do an unplugged set in the middle,” he said. “There are no dancing girls or fire bombs. If there are people in the audience who are fans of my voice, they will enjoy this show.”

Cross also says that his shows attempt to introduce a good cross-section of his music, both old and new.

“It’s a good sampling of my discography, over the years,” he said. “I’ll always play the hits, the crowd would be disappointed if they didn’t hear some of the classics. But I’m also going to be playing some of my more recent material. Avalon, which I released in 1998, is some of the best material I have done, but the album has sort of lived under a rock.”

Indeed, Cross feels that his live performances are a great opportunity to introduce fans to his evolved sound. Without the backbone of commercial success, some of his later – and by many accounts, better – music is not available in stores or on the airwaves.

“I just got the whole catalogue on iTunes, which was really important for me,” Cross said. “Not so much commercially, but spiritually. Knowing that some of my better stuff wasn’t in the stores, wasn’t anywhere in mainstream music. For some time, it’s been like, you might hear some of the material on XM radio, if you’re on the right channel at the right time, but it’s good for me to know that now people can hear something they like at a show and go to iTunes and find it.”

Cross is not done creating new material. Not by a long shot. But his priority right now is his daughter.

Not just raising 14-year old Madison – but helping her follow in his footsteps as she launches her own music career.

“Sure, I have trepidations,” Cross said when prompted about sending his young offspring into the music industry which was such a fair-weather-friend to him.

“Everyone wishes their kids become doctors, take the safe route. But it’s great. She’s really serious about a musical theater career, she wants to go to NYU and live in New York City – her real focus is musical theater and Broadway. She has said that if it requires her to drop out of school, she doesn’t want to do it. She’s very focused.”

Fans of Cross’ who haven’t heard any material from him since the 1998’s Avalon will be able to pick up on his signature crooning on the material he has coming out with his daughter. But if that’s not good enough, sit tight, because Cross fully plans another solo release in the near future.

“At some point I’ll have to hand my daughter’s career over, take my hands off it,” he said. “There is a generational gap. After all, I am the dad, and I can only be so ‘alternative.’ She’ll want to determine her own direction. Once she is off on her own, I’ll start getting my own stuff back out there.”

In the meantime, the live experience will have to suffice. Cross hits the Vilar Center stage at 8 p.m. on Saturday. Tickets are available at the Vilar Center Box Office, or by calling 845-TIXS or visiting http://www.vilarcenter.org.

Vail, Colorado


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