Veteran singer Chris Rea decided the time was right to fulfil his blues ambition while he lay on an operating table as the anaesthetic began to take hold.

THE ROAD TO HELL star Rea was undergoing a crucial operation to remove his pancreas when he was filled with horror that he might not live to tape a blues record.

The 54-year-old recalls, "Before the operation I heard a nurse's voice. She was talking about my songs as I drifted off. I remember thinking, 'I never got round to recording a blues album', the reason I got into music. What if it was too late?

"I'd become a corporate rock musician. I worked for 'Chris Rea'. He felt like another person. I even talked about him in the third person. I do now.

"In a funny way, the illness spurred me on. I thought to myself, 'I've got to get through this operation to make a blues album.'

"And I have finally made that blues album. In fact, I've made 11 since the operation."

This week (begs17OCT05) sees Rea release BLUE GUITARS, an 11 CD and DVD boxset.