Pop history will probably record him as the man who co-wrote John Farnham’s massive hit anthem You’re The Voice, but UK-born, NZ-raised singer/songwriter and AOR man Chris Thompson has made a notable contribution to rock’s more progressive side too.
Rising to fame as the vocalist for the Manfred Mann Earth Band in the mid 70s, he went on to perform on Jeff Wayne’s War Of The Worlds, guested with Steve Hackett on his Feedback 86 album, and his solo work has been studded by collaborations with Marillion’s Pete Trewavas, Brian May and many more.
This enjoyable and lovingly annotated root through his back catalogue is ‘ultimate’ in the sense that it encompasses his 40-plus years in the game. The only caveat is that it relies heavily on live versions, re-records and alternative takes of well-known songs. As you’d expect, the Manfreds repertoire is here in force: Father Of Day, Runner and The Mighty Quinn come from a live performance Thompson did years later for Radio Berlin; the evergreen Blinded By The Light is here, but as an early-90s re-do. Hot Summer Night represents his 1979 band Night, May’s unmistakable chordwork enlivens A Shift In The Wind, and he more than holds his own with the legendary Mavis Staples on The Fire. Of course, some of this stuff has dated: near the Baywatch end of the anthemic spectrum, 1988 song The Challenge was used by German TV for their Wimbledon coverage in ’89; and his take on Fleetwood Mac’s Don’t Stop seems superfluous in here.
Still, piano ballad Cold Wind Blowing Across My Heart sends a shiver, his take on You’re The Voice almost matches the original, and something definitely got in my eye during If You Remember Me, his contribution to the soundtrack of 1979 boxing weepy The Champ. Thompson’s jukebox is well stocked, and tunes from 2014’s Toys And Dishes (Dark Side, Million Dollar Wonder Hit) show he’s still got plenty more fuel in the tank.