Even if the name doesn't immediately ring a bell, there are likely few rock fans who don't know the voice of Chris Thompson.
The distinctive lead vocalist behind several of Manfred Mann's Earth Band's biggest hits,
the Costa Mesa resident was a member of the well- known British band in 1974-97 (during that period, he also formed the band Night, which had several hits, including the Top 20 theme song "If You Remember Me"
for the film "The Champ").
"People in this country just know me for 'Blinded by the Light,'" acknowledged Thompson, who has lived in Costa Mesa for six years. "I was born in England, but my
dad took us to New Zealand when I was 5. I have a good friend who lives down the road who I would visit whenever I came to L.A. to work." Thompson's attraction to the area is a gain for classic- rock fans, who will
have a chance to see him sing cuts such as "Blinded by the Light," "For You" and "Quinn the Eskimo (The Mighty Quinn)" when he performs free shows at the Harp Inn in Costa Mesa on Monday
and March 10.
In addition, Thompson is a highly regarded songwriter whose tunes have been covered by Michael McDonald, Ray Charles, the Doobie Brothers, Heart, Jefferson Starship, Roger Daltrey, Rita Coolidge and
Isaac Hayes. The intimate showcase will allow fans to enjoy his formidable songwriting skills as well. "I was ready to go to Europe to do concerts and went around to local places (to prepare for the coming European
tour). I'm having a good time; trying to make it fun," the personable Thompson said.
In addition to Thompson, who sings and plays guitar, his band includes San Diego- based brothers Ken and Kevin Dow (on bass
and drums) and a number of guests who drop by to play simply for the fun of it. Well-known saxophonist Eric Marienthal performed with Thompson at his most recent appearance at the Harp Inn. Indeed, Thompson uses his
first hour-long set to cover some of the well-known hits and bands he has performed with (notably Manfred Mann's Earth Band), while his second set features material he normally doesn't do.
In addition to his lead
vocal work for Mann's outfit, Thompson has done live vocals for a who's who of rock's biggest names, including Queen, David Bowie, Brian May, Paul Rodgers, Joe Walsh, Seal and Elton John. His voice has also been
featured on many well-known other projects, including recordings by Sarah Brightman (the duet "How Can Heaven Love Me"), Alan Parsons, Ozzy Osbourne and Tina Turner.
Yet he continues to improve his craft,
as a singer and songwriter. Thompson is amid work on a new concept album with multi-instrumentalist Mads Erickson (they will go to New Zealand in April to complete the album). "I do a lot of practice. I work on my
(vocal) technique an hour a day." And while he can practice singing and playing guitar in his well-equipped home studio, the coming shows at the Harp Inn allow him to put his performance skills to use in a way he
simply can't do in the studio. They also allow friends and fans to enjoy intimate shows at the most cozy and intimate of venues.
Of his experiences, including travels around the world and his work with a parade of
legendary artists, Thompson's thoughts can be summarized in a few words. "I'm a lucky man."