Release Date: Oct 18, 2011
Record label: Vanguard
Genre(s): Pop/Rock, Roots Rock
In a recent interview with Billboard, Chris Isaak noted that if somebody asked him, “What do you know about better than anything else?,” he’d respond with, “Sun Studios.” He then added, “Those guys—Elvis, Johnny Cash, Roy Orbison, Jerry Lee Lewis, that’s what I’m made of. That’s in my DNA.” That Isaak’s music has been shaped by those artists is no surprise to anyone. Their imprint is all over his career.
Some albums are so obvious it’s a wonder they didn’t exist before, and so it is with Chris Isaak's Beyond the Sun, a salute to the classic rock & roll label Sun Records. Ever since his first album, Isaak has exhibited an enormous debt to the titans who recorded at Sun, particularly Roy Orbison and Elvis Presley, whose work is showcased heavily here. Isaak doesn’t stick strictly to songs released on Sun -- he covers “Can’t Help Falling in Love,” which Presley did not release during his time on Sun -- but he doesn’t stick to the obvious, either, finding excellent songs from the likes of Warren Smith.
Every musician has an album they've "always wanted to make", and this is Chris Isaak's: a 19-track behemoth of (mainly) Sun Records covers, executed so faithfully that they could have been mouldering in a Memphis vault for 50 years. Most of the album was even recorded in the Sun Studios. There's little divergence from the originals in this set (which also includes one new Isaak tune, Live It Up, a headlong rockabilly rush).
Take one listen to (or look at) Chris Isaak and it won't come as a shock that he counts the recordings that came out of Sam Phillips's legendary Sun Studio as his biggest musical influence. While Isaak's music has often paid homage to 50s rock 'n' roll and country, his new album, recorded at the still-standing Sun Studio, combines songs by Elvis Presley, Johnny Cash and other legends with a few originals that fit seamlessly with the classics. He shines on the ballads, especially those by Presley, with whom he shares a vocal style.
A sincerely meant yet curiously staid and pedestrian tribute. Paul Whitelaw 2012 Always an unabashedly retro performer in thrall to rock's formative epoch, it was probably only a matter of time before Chris Isaak recorded an album of covers at the legendary Sun studios in Memphis. But just because a concept is a no-brainer, doesn't mean it should actually be carried out, as this rather pointless collection confirms.