Release Date: Nov 13, 2015
Record label: Vanguard
Vintage-inspired singer/songwriter Chris Isaak has periodically attempted to update his '50s and '60s-influenced sound. Albums like 2002's Always Got Tonight and 2009's Mr. Lucky found the California native incorporating funk grooves, modern rock guitars, and the occasional synthesizer. Despite these moves toward contemporizing his pompadour-accented approach however, Isaak's best work, even on those albums, is always on the tracks where he embraces his old-school aesthetics and delivers melodic, twangy songs in his signature goosebump-inducing croon.
Chris IsaakFirst Comes the Night(Vanguard/Wicked Game)Rating: 3.5 out of 5 stars Newsflash! Someone broke Chris Isaak’s heart. OK, so that’s not front page material, especially since the West Coast singer/songwriter has been mining the same teary territory since his debut 12 albums and 30 years ago. He’s back with his first set of originals in more than six years, and although the subject matter hasn’t changed significantly, Isaak, always the consummate craftsman, delivers another strong set.
Reinvention must be a challenging proposition for Chris Isaak, who's long branded himself the suavest and most convincing Elvis-style crooner alive. His impressive last set, the 2011 Beyond The Sun, simply cut to the chase with a set of classics from Sun Studio-era Elvis, Roy Orbison, Johnny Cash and more. Alongside his valiant attempt to add gravitas to the judging panel of this season's X Factor Australia comes his latest, a nouveau-retro Nashville session that dials back that gravitas instead.
On the forlorn “Reverie,” from his first album of original material in more than six years, Chris Isaak sings, “Where do you go when it’s over/ when the reverie goes up in flames?” It’s a quintessential Isaak moment: a brooding, mysterious meditation on the ephemeral nature of love. No one does heartbreak and yearning quite like this veteran singer-songwriter, who sounds renewed here with a streamlined sound in these 12 carefully observed, beautifully sung songs. Mostly written and recorded in Nashville, the tracks once again reveal Isaak to be a master stylist able to express more through subtly caressing a lyric than most vocalists achieve with histrionics.