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Isaak’s voice highlights greatest hits album

Paul Serafy | Thursday, August 31, 2006

Chris Isaak could be walking on a beach or sitting in a bar somewhere in California. It doesn’t really matter what Chris Isaak is doing or where he is, however, because his sound transcends time and place.

If a two decade-long recording career falls short of proving this artist as magnificent and timeless, his newest release, “Best of Chris Isaak” certainly will.

Isaak’s greatest hits album alternately highlights and recreates the rootsy, rockabilly sound that hailed from Sun Studios at a time when most music was really good – a time when legends like Elvis Presley and Roy Orbison dominated airwaves and made young girls swoon.

Isaak’s penchant for writing and performing smooth, sexy songs dominates the fourteen re-mastered, previously released tracks and the three newly issued cuts.

The core essence of Isaak’s talent lies in the fact that he sticks to what he knows. His attempts to branch out on the country ballad “Let Me Down Easy” and the lovesick laden “San Francisco Nights” do not result in a detracting change of genre, but produces a modern take on reverb laced rockabilly with the addition of string arrangements and synthesizers.

Issak showcases his talent as a blues vocalist and guitarist on “Baby Did a Bad Bad Thing.” Classics like “Only the Lonely” and “Wicked Game” have lyrics and melodies that would evoke memories of a love lost for even the toughest of tough guys.

As a seasoned veteran of the music industry, Isaak knows that the best artists are multi-faceted. This album gives listeners the chance to see every facet of his talent. Isaak is truly at his best when he is in his purest form on “Forever Blue,” an acoustic track that paints a portrait of Isaak sitting alone on a dark stage.

The clarity of his voice, precision of his finger picking and the sadness of the lyrics are colors and tones that come together to make the portrait a masterpiece that is best described as a classic bleeding heart ballad. Isaak shows his audience that he does not necessarily need to be backed by a band. He does it all on his own.

Perhaps the most unique aspect of this release is the fact that Isaak takes the immense risk of releasing covers of several well-known songs on a “best of” album.

This daunting task would cause other artists to cringe with fear. Isaak seemingly laughs at the risk, performing Cheap Trick’s classic “I Want You to Want Me” with a flair that is truly his own. Isaak’s take on the arena anthem possesses an air of pleasant awkwardness that demonstrates Isaak’s artistic versatility.

While other songs show that Isaak can take anything and make it his, this song seals the deal. Isaak superimposes tones of country, blues and rock on the eighties rock song. Isaak’s version could be the sound the original artist wanted to create.

That’s the beauty of Chris Isaak. It’s hard enough to convince audiences that you play a song better than the person who wrote it – Isaak goes beyond that and plays it like he wrote it.

Isaak’s songs are some of the most sensual to grace airwaves. His unique sound and smooth voice are unmatched in the industry. Isaak has managed to remind critics that he’s still around by releasing and re-mastering his classics. He goes the extra mile and reminds them that he’s still good by releasing new songs.

While Justin Timberlake may claim to be “bringing sexy back,” Chris Isaak reminds listeners and critics that it never left.