Chris Isaak – First Comes the Night (Rating 4 out of 5)

chrisisaakIf you have the time, before you dive into First Comes the Night, his first proper record of original tunes in six years, do your ears a solid and take a stroll the Chris Isaak’s tremendously cool back pages.  Beyond the Sun is Sun Records inspired covers album that included makes them his own versions of “Ring of Fire” and the spot on Elvis inspired “It’s Now or Never.” Speak of the Devil brings the Roy Orbison comparisons to the highest of levels especially on “Walk Slow,” and Baja Sessions, a record that might be pound for pound his best, includes what is certainly one of the best covers of “South of the Border (Down Mexico Way)” you will likely experience. In short this guy is no “Wicked Game” one trick Pony.

The opening title track tones the noir vibe down a notch, which is somewhat disappointing since many of his best dark side of the street songs reference the nighttime, in favor of almost a Traveling Wilbury vibe. It is a very good tune and Since Jeff Lynne, Tom Petty and Bob Dylan are still with us, I am formally starting a petition to reform the Wilbury brothers super group with Chris Isaak front and center as Lefty Wilbury.

Sure the Elvis and the Orbison comparisons will run rampant on any Chris Isaak album, but this one is diverse enough to showcase his own personal musical styling side by side with the legends, and “Please Don’t Call” is a text-book example. “Perfect Lover” is a Big O worthy song with subtly played mariachi horns in the background that elevate this one to wow, best track on the record status. Mariachi horns are somewhat like bagpipes. A little goes a long way, and here they come in at just the right place in just the right time.

“Down in Flames” is an up-tempo number that is my latest I want this played at my funeral song.

Even in this noisy barroom I can hear that long black train, I’ve already bought my ticket, I’m going down in flames.

If Elvis and Dwight Yoakam had a love-child he would have written and performed “Don’t Break my Heart,” a song that that floats a bit like comeback special Presley if he was backed by The Mavericks with a delicate touch of twang thrown in for good measure, and the Jerry Lee Lewis influence storms in on “Running Down the Road,” a song that gets better with subsequent listens.

With his inner “Wicked Game” Tarantino vibe slithering to the surface on “Kiss Me Like a Stranger” all of the bases are now covered, and this wickedly cool record is complete. With the Isaak staples Sun Records era Elvis, Roy, Trarantino, and Baja-Noir influences all rearing their collective heads, there is nothing left to do do but listen, rinse and repeat, and do it all over again.

— Jeremy Wren —