October 4, 2008

Christian Garry is Keeping the Faith

T he LAST time The Christians were in Cornwall was at the height of their chart success in 1990 when they filmed the video for their single Words amid the wild coastal landscapes of Tintagel and Boscastle on the north coast.

Wind the clock forward almost two decades and the soul-inspired sophisto-pop band from Liverpool are making their Westcountry live debut in the county with a show at Truro's Hall for Cornwall next week.

"It was fantastic scenery," says crooner extraordinaire Garry Christian - the sole survivor of the original troupe, which featured his older brothers Roger and Russell.

There were 12 siblings altogether - seven boys and five girls - born to a Jamaican immigrant father and a Liverpudlian mother, and their house was always filled with music. Garry was 11 or 12 when he bought his first single - In the Heat of the Night, by Ray Charles.

"I listened to him sing and I got it straight away. I really wanted to sound like him," he says. "My older brothers and sister were into the Mersey Beat stuff like The Beatles, but me, Roger and Russell got into Motown.

"We started doing a capella singing as brothers after listening to acts like the Four Tops and the Temptations. We used to go into the front parlour, where the gramophone was kept, and practice our harmonies."

All those home rehearsals paid off when they hooked up with Liverpudlian songwriter Henry Priestman (whose middle name happened to be Christian) and were given a deal by Island Records.

The Christians' first three singles made the Top 40 in Britain, and their eponymous 1987 debut album entered the UK albums chart at number two, and eventually sold over a million copies.

Their best loved and highest charting single from this album was Ideal World, a gloriously emotive anthem which has stood the test of time and is a favourite at live shows.

In 1988 they released a cover of the Isley Brothers' Harvest For The World, with all proceeds going to charity.

The award-winning video for the track was an animation, created by four leading animation companies, including Aardman Animations of Wallace and Gromit fame.

The band's second album, Colour, released in 1990, reached number one in the UK chart and yielded the aforementioned international hit, Words.

Garry moved to Paris in 1995 to record a solo album, effectively breaking up the band. But after his brother Roger's sudden death from a brain tumour in 1998 The Christians began to perform together again in an unplugged acoustic format, and began to write songs for a comeback album, Prodigal Sons, which was released in 2003.

Russell decided to give up touring three years ago, and these days Garry is on the road with a line-up featuring fellow Liverpudlians Stewart Boyle, Joey Ankrah and Jay Irving, keeping the focus firmly on vocal harmony and taking care not to burn the candle at both ends.

"We're in bed with the cocoa by 11pm these days. I put all my energy into the show," laughs Garry, who has returned to his roots in Liverpool. "I'm there putting all the lotions and potions on to keep myself young, because I can't do anything else."

Luckily soul singers tend to mature like a fine wine, so there's little danger that his age will put off the fans as long as that beautiful voice keeps on crooning.

The current set contains all the classic Christians' tracks, plus new songs, some of Garry's solo material and some carefully selected covers - including, ironically, The Beatles' Here Comes the Sun.

The Christians appear at the Hall for Cornwall, Truro, on Thursday, October 9. Box office: 01872 262 466 or visit www.hallforcornwall.co.uk

(c) 2008 Western Morning News, The Plymouth (UK). Provided by ProQuest LLC. All rights Reserved.