CHRIS Norman, the original voice of Smokie, is making his York Barbican debut this weekend on his first British tour "in a long time".

Now living on the Isle of Man, but still with family in his home city of Bradford, he is backing up the April release of his newly recorded compilation album, The Definitive Hits – Smokie and Solo Years.

Among those familiar Seventies and Eighties' songs are Living Next Door To Alice, I'll Meet You At Midnight, If You Think You Know How To Love Me, Stumblin' In, Lay Back In The Arms Of Someone and Midnight Lady, his solo debut that topped the Germnan charts for six weeks when he left Smokie in 1986.

"I've re-recorded them because the original Smokie records are owned by Sony BMG," says Chris, now 68. "I've done all the Smokie hits with a really keen ear, mixing them like the original arrangements with the string parts, so they're authentic, I would say.

"If people want to buy these songs, they want to hear then as they remember them, so I was there for the recording of everything for this album."

How is the voice, Chris? Still like "the original voice of Smokie"? "It's still there! I'm still singing in the same key, and it sounds good. Better than ever? It's difficult to say! It's thicker than it used to be."

Chris is in the process of writing a new album for release "maybe next year", and among the songs likely to feature Is Battle Of The Sexes, penned with guitarist Jeff Carling.

"I sent it to Bonnie Tyler to sing as a duet, maybe with me, I thought, but she said 'how about Rod?'. Yes, Rod Stewart!

"He said yes and it's now on Bonnie's album [Between The Earth And The Stars, released in March this year], but maybe I might just release my own version, as I have a recording I did," he says.

"But I'm glad Bonnie did the song and Rod's a big name worldwide, and that might help."

Chris and his band play upwards of 60 to 70 shows a year. "Most of them have been playing with me for years; Geoff since 1991 and many for 12 years. They're used to playing with me; I'm used to playing with them, and we tour Germany, Scandinavia, Russia, all over the place.

"We take 11 on the road, including the sound engineers, who've been working with me for a long time , so we have a really good sound, good harmonies."

Now a 13-date British tour is under way, spread over May and June. "The whole thing about playing in the UK is exciting for me because it's a long time since I played here. It's good to be playing Bradford, where I grew up, Leeds City Varieties, where I've never performed, and York Barbican for the first time."

Chris Norman, The Original Voice Of Smokie, York Barbican, Saturday, 7.30pm. Box office: 0203 356 5441 or at

Charles Hutchinson