In the Pipeline: A pop legend sails in

There's a concert I'm looking forward to nearby in Laguna Beach this Saturday.

Thirty years ago, it was seemingly everywhere: the earnest, feathery voice of a soft-spoken Texas balladeer, Christopher Cross. The charts back then featured a galaxy of stars and soon-to-be-legends; Blondie, Queen, Elton John, Michael Jackson and Paul McCartney. But Cross' thoughtful, simple, self-titled debut made its mark — big time.

In 1981, he took home five Grammys. Since then, there's also been an Oscar and a Golden Globe, not to mention about nine million worldwide album sales.

Cross practically invented the "adult contemporary" genre on the strength of songs including "Sailing," the Michael McDonald duet "Ride Like The Wind" and "Arthur's Theme (Best That You Can Do)."

Until recently, Cross hadn't released a new studio album in 12 years, though it's not like he wasn't busy. He tours all over the world and guests on the records of others. But the latest collection of songs hearkens back to some of his most memorable work.

The CD is called "Doctor Faith," and it shimmers with the same rich melodic atmosphere that was the essence of his first, self-titled LP.

I've gotten to know the singer over the past year, and even though Huntington and other OC beach towns are defined by surf music, Cross' music (now part of a tongue-in-cheek genre called "yacht rock'), for me, certainly plays beautifully against the Southern California coast, which is why I thought you might like to check out the show this weekend.

When we spoke last week, Cross told me he was leaving the next day for Japan to play the Peace Festival the country holds each year as a solemn commemoration of the bombs dropped in World War II. Harry Truman's grandson was also going to be in attendance, among other historic figures, and Cross would be backed by the Hiroshima Symphony Orchestra. Then he was turning around to come back for the show this weekend.

The business has changed a lot since Cross started out, but he never tires of hearing the stories from fans about songs like "Sailing" and others that became the soundtrack of so many proms, weddings and other personal milestone events.

His angelic voice is so woven into the fabric of our pop-culture consciousness that we almost forget what a fine guitarist he is and how many other artists he has influenced.

He likes our beach area, and I'm hoping that next time around, we can have him play right here in town (he performed in Newport last fall, so we are due).

And I can't stress enough how wonderful his most recent release is. Recalling the early-1970s singer/songwriter era of Laura Nyro, Carole King, Jackson Browne and Joni Mitchell (to whom Cross dedicates the album), "Doctor Faith" reveals a mature artist in full control of his greatest gifts: an ear for airy, cozy, familiar melodies and lyrics with a poignant, everyman touch.

Cross' delicate emotional embrace puts him squarely back where so many millions love him: plaintively expressing simple thoughts of love and posing graceful metaphors mixed with honest questions about life.

In true Cross fashion, certain songs contain subtle anthemic qualities that might evoke a first-dance wedding song or prom. But that only adds to the "rediscovering-a-long-ago friend" quality of the music. One forgets how the musical voices of our younger days remain wafting in our consciousness, whether we know it or not, and how pleasing it is to reconnect.

Cross' point of view on the album, like that of many of his original fans, is older and wiser. Everyone has grown up. But he manages to blend the wisdom of age with a winsome delivery that's youthful and cautiously hopeful.

Looking forward to a marvelous show this Saturday. Hope you can attend.

CHRIS EPTING is the author of 19 books, including the new "Baseball in Orange County" from Arcadia Publishing. You can chat with him on Twitter @chrisepting or follow his column at

If You Go

Who: Christopher Cross at the 2012 Acura/KOST Celebrity Event and Concert

Where: Festival of Arts, 650 Laguna Canyon Road, Laguna Beach

When: 5 to 10:30 p.m. Saturday (Cross goes onstage at 6 p.m.)

Cost: $40 to $250

Information: (800) 487-3378 or

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