Chris Isaak has been smooth-talking his way across the international stage since the late 1980s, and though his blend of crooning rockabilly would have likely devolved into schtick by now for any lesser performer, Isaak is the real deal. His latest album, Mr. Lucky, though released to little fanfare earlier this year, is a solid collection of the kind of high-pitched, twangy songs of the broken hearted that the singer has built his career on. So, he he hasn't slowed down yet, and though none of these newer tracks are represented on Chris Isaak: Greatest Hits - Live, they'd have fit right in.
What we do get on this 2005 concert recorded for the television series "Sound Stage" is a collection of 15 songs--12 in the main concert, 3 as bonus tracks--that have defined Isaak's Silvertone sound. Some of them are instantly recognizable. Just about everybody knows "Wicked Game" and the snaking "Baby Did a Bad Bad Thing." Some, like the raucous "Notice the Ring" and the country-flavored "Western Stars" might not be so well-known--Isaak even jokingly mentions how the latter was not necessarily embraced by radio--but they fill out the smartly arranged set nicely. There is a good balance of rockers and slow numbers, as well as originals vs. covers. Neil Diamond's "Solitary Man," Roy Orbison's "Only the Lonely," and Bo Diddley's "Diddly Daddy," the staple finale of Isaak's concerts, are all represented with fine renditions. There is even a stripped-down acoustic set in the middle of the show, and plenty of the humorous stage banter that is so important to the singer's persona.
Backing Isaak up on this hour-long program is his long-standing band, including Kenney Dale Johnson on the drums, Roly Salley on the bass, and Hershel Yatovitz on lead guitar. It's a tight crew, perfectly in sync with one another, and Isaak is a gracious leader, giving each performer his time to shine. This Greatest Hits - Live program was filmed professionally with multiple cameras, and so we got a lot of angles of the stage and close-up shots of the appropriate band members when they have their solos.
The concert set list is as follows:
Let Me Down Easy
Baby Did a Bad Bad Thing
Can't Do a Thing (To Stop Me)
Only the Lonely
Wrong to Love You
Notice the Ring
Think of Tomorrow
Chris Isaak: Greatest Hits - Live was shot for television in high-def and was put on DVD as a 16X9 anamorphic transfer. The colors are excellent, with good skin tones and the brights really pop. Some of the edges are soft at times, but overall, it's a clean piece of work.
The audio for the concert is mixed in Dolby, and there are 2.0 and 5.1 options. Both are excellent, and the music lights up the speakers with a sparkling clarity.
As noted above, there are three songs that weren't included in the original television broadcast. These are excellent Isaak tracks, including the rockin' "Goin' Nowhere" and a classic from his early days, the moody "Blue Hotel."
It takes a confident performer to put his biggest hit early in a best-of set, so you can guess how confident Chris Isaak is that "Wicked Game" is third in the line-up on Chris Isaak: Greatest Hits - Live. This television program captures Isaak and the Silvertone band back in 2005. They are a tight unit, playing with journeyman skill but never sounding stale or workmanlike. Isaak is a free and loose performer, able to adapt to the situation, joking about being on TV, but always delivering the music to the best of his abilities. Highly Recommended.
Jamie S. Rich is a novelist and comic book writer. He is best known for his collaborations with Joelle Jones, including the hardboiled crime comic book You Have Killed Me, the challenging romance 12 Reasons Why I Love Her, and the 2007 prose novel Have You Seen the Horizon Lately?, for which Jones did the cover. All three were published by Oni Press. His most recent project is the superhero series It Girl and the Atomics and the futuristic romance A Boy and a Girl with Natalie Nourigat. Follow Rich's blog at Confessions123.com.