Tuesday, October 18, 2011


It's so perfect it's amazing it wasn't done 10 years ago.  Everybody's known Chris Isaak has a classic old-school voice, akin to the Elvis-Roy-Johnny school of rockabilly from the 50's.  Ya, he can really do up those kinds of songs, the ones that came out of Memphis.  You know, Sun Studios and all that.  He's so good at it, he could do a whole Elvis tribute album.  Nah, too cliche.  How about Johnny Cash?  Again, it's been done, Orbison too, most of them.  But somebody finally went, "hey, what if it was a tribute to all the Sun Studios artists, that echo-drenched sound?  You know, the Sam Phillips thing?"

Beauty.  You have to hear Isaak do Elvis, with big ballads his specialty here, Can't Help Falling In Love and It's Now Or Never, plus My Happiness and I Forgot To Remember To Forget.  His Johnny is on the spot as well, on a couple of the big hits, Ring Of Fire and I Walk The Line.  There are actually more obscure numbers than famous ones though, which is the real joy of this set.  Dixie Fried is a little-known Carl Perkins track that is a gem, and since Isaak isn't mimicking here, he lets loose.  But even when he is doing essentially an imitation, it's so top-drawer, you don't want him to even begin to mess with the arrangement or vocal style.  A case in point is Great Balls Of Fire, where he actually does as great a version as The Killer.

And props galore to the band, Isaak's usual bunch, some of whom you know well from his old TV show.  These guys are as expert at the sound as Isaak.  And did they ever get the ambiance right.  That famous slap-back echo is here, and the parts are perfect, the drums, guitar and bass all sounding like they could have been sampled from original records.  For Heaven's sake, get the deluxe edition; you get another 11 tracks on a second CD, a lot more of a good thing, for only two bucks more.

It's really the project of Isaak's career in some ways.  As much as I like Wicked Game and most of his albums, he has always been a man out of time, like someone mistakenly dropped in our midst by really cool aliens, or maybe the first of Jerry Lee's illegitimate kids.  It turns out he's actually been sent to remind us where it all started, and to never forget.

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