Chris Isaak ‘Speak of the Devil’

 

Today’s Cool Album of the Day (#825 in the Series) is Chris Isaak, Speak of the Devil

This is the 9th record of the California rocker and for me stands out as one of his best.  His voice is an instrument in an obvious Roy Orbison tribute kind of way. His songwriting and guitar playing make these 14 songs fun to listen to in a way that makes me think, did Elvis Presley ever comes this close to being great. I know I may offend some with that thought, but put this on the old phonograph and from the first track, “Please” compare it to anything the King did and you will hear where I am coming from.

This one contains more of an edge than his previous releases. It could be due to the era it was released in (1998), there was more anxiety and angst going out on the airwaves. However, “Please” was the only one that I ever heard on the radio. Too bad because if you leave it playing, even the second track, with a fade in psychedelic  opening of cymbals and silvertone sound, the lyrics are dreamy and tell a story probably true of love at first sight gone away. What drives me nuts is the labeling of a work such as this as rockabilly. It’s just plain good writing, playing and singing, as his voice is an instrument that is hard to compare any genre with.

The odd thing about the career of Chris Isaak is that if a release like Speak of the Devil had been more commercially successful, he may have put more focus on his musical career instead of dividing his attention between putting out cool albums and acting. In fact he took three plus years off after this one, partly to tour, but perhaps also partly to reflect on how could he have not taken off after putting something so solid out.

Several of these songs have a harder rock edge to them, including the title track with a couple of solo’s that come out of nowhere and take you to the land of what could have been. He has a big catalogue of records, 15 to date, but this is not only a great sample of what he can do, but an outstanding example of what he is capable of. So many of the songs have the love gone wrong, let’s make it right, but he takes some curvy roads with stuff like “Black Flowers”.  When an album has this many songs, I have a tendency to skip tracks, but I like letting this one ride and before you know it, you have arrived at the super hip instrumental finally, “Super Magic 2000” which makes you think, you never know what will come next, and if it’s a single CD player, its track one again and you want to listen to it all over again to hear what you missed.

If you don’t have anything else by CI, this is a good way to dive in head first. I remember the first song I heard by Isaak was the single “Dancin” and I couldn’t get enough of it. I love the falsetto ranges he displays and his super cool vibe he puts out, but what I like the most is this is a cool album because its great music by a super talented artist.  Get it!

– John Driscoll, Chicago, Illinois, USA

Track Listing

  1. “Please” – 3:34
  2. “Flying” – 3:08
  3. “Walk Slow” – 3:01
  4. “Breaking Apart” – 3:45
  5. “This Time” – 3:12
  6. “Speak of the Devil” – 3:30
  7. “Like the Way She Moves” – 2:49
  8. “Wanderin'” – 2:42
  9. “Don’t Get So Down on Yourself” – 3:11
  10. “Black Flowers” – 2:43
  11. “I’m Not Sleepy” – 2:36
  12. “7 Lonely Nights” – 2:09
  13. “Talkin’ ’bout a Home” – 4:44
  14. “Super Magic 2000” – 3:45

 Personnel

  • Chris Isaak – vocals, guitar
  • Jamie Muhoberac
  • Patrick Warren
  • Matt Chamberlain
  • David Palmer
  • John Pierce
  • Curt Bisquera
  • Terry Wood
  • Rowland Salley – bass, vocals
  • Kenney Dale Johnson – drums, vocals
  • Hershel Yatovitz – guitar, vocals
  • Jimmy Pugh
  • Frank Marti
  • Mark Needham
  • Cynthia Corra
  • Juolie Lorch
  • Mary Dunaway
  • Wendy Waller

Related Links

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Give it a listen in its entirety below

Posted by Larry Carta


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