Chris Isaak – San Francisco Days (1993)

FrontCover1Christopher Joseph Isaak (born June 26, 1956) is an American musician and occasional actor. He is widely known for his hit “Wicked Game”, as well as the songs “Baby Did a Bad Bad Thing” and “Somebody’s Crying”. He is known for his signature 1950s rock & roll style and crooner sound, as well as his falsetto and reverb-laden music. He is closely associated with film director David Lynch, who has used his music in numerous films and gave him a role in the film Twin Peaks: Fire Walk with Me. His songs generally focus on the themes of love, loss, and heartbreak. With a career spanning four decades, he has released a total of 12 studio albums, toured, and received numerous award nominations. He has been called the Roy Orbison of the 1990s and is also often compared to Elvis Presley, Ricky Nelson, and Duane Eddy.

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San Francisco Days is the fourth album by Chris Isaak, released in 1993. The album’s sound was more upbeat than that of its predecessor, the darker Heart Shaped World, and Isaak’s breakthrough hit “Wicked Game”. It did not perform as well as Heart Shaped World, but was certified gold by the RIAA while several of its tracks became longtime staples of Isaak’s live set. Later in 1993, the song “Two Hearts” was featured in the film True Romance and on its soundtrack. The album was dedicated to the memory of Louie Beeson, who was the sound consultant. (wikipedia)

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Having found himself with a fluke hit single thanks to “Wicked Game,” Isaak’s next move was interesting enough — namely, for a long while, nothing. Heart Shaped World’s follow-up came four years later, after Nirvana and Dr. Dre rewrote the musical rules for what turned out to be the rest of the ’90s. As a result, San Francisco Days more than any of Isaak’s earlier albums seemed more timeless, more enjoyably out of place, than before, an effect heightened by the intentionally ’60s-styled cover art and design, right down to the listing of the song titles on the front. But while the emphasis on the surface was traditionalism and continuity, in fact, San Francisco Days was the most quietly experimental collection Isaak had yet recorded, wedding his clean and classic approach, backed by his ever-reliable trio and as always produced by Erik Jacobsen, with a variety of newer musical touches and quirkier arrangements.

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Thus the barrelhouse piano toward the end of the swooning title track or the quietly sassy female backing vocals on “Can’t Do a Thing to Stop This” and “Move Along,” not to mention the dark rumble of feedback mixed with fuzzy rhythm box (!) that provides the core of “Round N’ Round,” the vocal growl at the end a surprising touch. The work of guest Jimmy Pugh on Hammond organ on various tracks is also noteworthy, adding some quietly funky smoke to the proceedings. This certainly doesn’t describe the whole album, and those won over by “Wicked Game” and its crystalline vision of smoldering appeal and emotional sucker punch will find much to love with the deceptively gentle lope of “Two Hearts” and the slow, stripped-down “Waiting.” There are also plenty of good-time numbers well suited to Isaak and company’s sly style, like “Beautiful Homes,” while a concluding cover of Neil Diamond’s “Solitary Man” wraps things up on a fine high note. (by Ned Raggett)

Don´t judge by album by the cover:
This is really a damn good album (listen to “Can’t Do A Thing”, “Lonely With A Broken Heart” with a great organ solo !), but the cover looks like a low-budget production … very annoying

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Personnel:
Chris Isaak (vocals, guitar)
Kenney Dale Johnson (drums, background vocals)
Rowland Salley (bass, background vocals)
James Calvin Wilsey (guitar)
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Kenny Aronoff (drums)
Tom Brumley (pedal steel-guitar)
Danny Gatton (guitar)
Joni Haastrup (keyboards)
Jim Keltner (drums)
Frank Martin (keyboards)
Prairie Prince (drums)
Jimmy Pugh (organ on 09.)
Ron Thompson (guitar)
Jeff Watson (guitar)
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background vocals:
Chrstine Wall – Cynthia Lloyd – Mia Rose Antonelli – Poplar Haines
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Tracklist:
01. San Francisco Days (Isaak) 2.59
02. Beautiful Homes (Isaak) 3.49
03. Round ‘N’ Round (Isaak) 4.26
04. Two Hearts (Isaak) 3.34
05. Can’t Do A Thing (To Stop Me) (Isaak/Elliot) 3.39
06. Except The New Girl (Isaak) 3.21
07. Waiting (Isaak) 3.41
08. Move Along (Isaak) 4.03
09. I Want Your Love (Isaak) 3.10
10. 5:15 (Isaak) 3.10
11. Lonely With A Broken Heart (Isaak) 3.09
12. Solitary Man (Diamond) 2.37

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Chris Isaak – Same (1987)

LPFrontCover1Christopher Joseph Isaak (born June 26, 1956) is an American musician and occasional actor. He is widely known for his hit “Wicked Game”, as well as the songs “Baby Did a Bad Bad Thing” and “Somebody’s Crying”. He is known for his signature 1950s rock & roll style and crooner sound, as well as his falsetto and reverb-laden music. He is closely associated with film director David Lynch, who has used his music in numerous films and gave him a role in the film Twin Peaks: Fire Walk with Me. His songs generally focus on the themes of love, loss, and heartbreak. With a career spanning four decades, he has released a total of 12 studio albums, toured, and received numerous award nominations. He has been called the Roy Orbison of the 1990s and is also often compared to Elvis Presley, Ricky Nelson, and Duane Eddy.

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Chris Isaak is the second album by Chris Isaak, released in 1987. After the poor commercial success of his debut, Isaak honed his style to a sophisticated R&B for his follow-up.[5] The song “Blue Hotel” was a hit in France, and in the U.K. after being re-released in 1991 making the Top 20. (wikipedia)

Having established a winning musical combination on Silvertone, Chris Isaak and his band essentially continue it with little variation on his second album, 11 songs of smoky, wounded romance and dark menace given great all-around performances. Isaak’s gift for capturing a perfect blend of early rock & roll twang and making it sound perfectly of the now is his greatest strength, and if later albums showed him finding new ways to twist and develop his approach, the relatively straight-up work here is more than fine. “Blue Hotel” is easily the killer track on the album, James Wilsey’s spaghetti Western lead guitar and Isaak’s yearning, lost singing perfectly matched.

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There are plenty of other reasons to listen in, though. “You Owe Me Some Kind of Love” is in many ways the precursor to Forever Blue’s “Baby Did a Bad, Bad Thing,” only before the breakup, though still charged with a threat of desire and need. Wilsey’s concluding guitar solo is especially sharp, and the way Isaak delivers the chorus balances between melancholy and urgency. For all the Roy Orbison comparisons Isaak won, “Cryin'” is in fact an original, but Isaak does tip his hat another direction with an attractive remake of the Yardbirds’ “Heart Full of Soul,” making it sound very much like an Isaak original instead of a worshipful carbon copy. Erik Jacobsen’s production again emphasizes Kenney Dale Johnson’s drumming without making it suffer from late-’80s corporate rock disease, while touches like the sax on “Lie to Me” and the buried strings and wordless backing vocals elsewhere adds depth and lushness to the album in just-right amounts. The whole experience is pure doom-haunted passion, elegantly on the run away from — or towards — someone. All that and a killer cover photo as well, the iris of Isaak’s eye only just in the light. (by Ned Raggett)

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Personnel:
Pat Craig (keyboards)
Chris Isaak (vocals, guitar)
Kenney Dale Johnson (drums, vocals)
Prairie Prince (drums)
John Robinson (drums)
Rowland Salley (bass)
Chris Solberg (bass)
James Calvin Wilsey (guitar)

LPInlet1Tracklist:
01. You Owe Me Some Kind Of Love 3.52
02. Heart Full Of Soul 3.20
03. Blue Hotel 3.12
04. Lie To Me 4.13
05. Fade Away 4.16
06. Wild Love 2.56
07. This Love Will Last 2.46
08. You Took My Heart 2.30
09. Cryin’ 2.32
10. Lovers Game 2.55
11. Waiting For The Rain to Fall 3.39

All songs written by Chris Isaak;
except 02., written by Graham Gouldman

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Chris Isaak – Baja Sessions (1996)

FrontCover1Christopher Joseph Isaak (born June 26, 1956) is an American musician and occasional actor. He is widely known for his hit “Wicked Game”, as well as the songs “Baby Did a Bad Bad Thing” and “Somebody’s Crying”. He is known for his signature 1950s rock & roll style and crooner sound, as well as his falsetto and reverb-laden music. He is closely associated with film director David Lynch, who has used his music in numerous films and gave him a role in the film Twin Peaks: Fire Walk with Me. His songs generally focus on the themes of love, loss, and heartbreak. With a career spanning four decades, he has released a total of 12 studio albums, toured, and received numerous award nominations. He has been called the Roy Orbison of the 1990s and is also often compared to Elvis Presley, Ricky Nelson, and Duane Eddy.

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Baja Sessions is the sixth studio album by Chris Isaak, released in 1996, featuring largely acoustic arrangements. The album contains a large number of covers, many of which are classic songs (such as the Hawaiian-tinged “Sweet Leilani” and “South of the Border (Down Mexico Way)”) which refer to, or are styled to suggest, tropical, laid-back settings. Though its title refers to Baja California, the album was recorded at San Francisco’s Coast Recorders.

A 58-minute documentary was released featuring Isaak performing the songs as well as making amusing asides, surfing and generally mucking around. (wikipedia)

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Isaak’s well-known surfing fixation had been referenced here and there on past album art before, but Baja Sessions gives him a chance not only to bring that out in the open but to consciously aim for a much more relaxed, gentle follow-up to the harrowing Forever Blue. Returning to the calmer but still potent romantic angst and celebration familiar from his earlier records, Isaak and his core band, with new recruit Hershel Yatovitz on lead guitar, tackle a slew of cover songs, some re-recordings of older material and a few new songs as well. It’s a much more relaxed outing in comparison to his previous work, by no means raw or rough, though — Erik Jacobsen, Isaak’s producer from start to end, or so it seems, keeps the focused, sweet sadness of Isaak’s singing and music as pure as one could ever want it. The emphasis is on mostly acoustic performances with soft drumming from Johnson, usually with brushes.

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The calm, gentle flow of the band’s work here means the new versions of older Isaak cuts like “Back On Your Side” and “Two Hearts” sound especially lovely, having a serene, relaxed sparkle to them. The cover choices are a fun range, everything from bona-fide rock & roll classics to nods to country and other sources. The old Gene Autry singing cowboy number “South of the Border (Down Mexico Way)” not only fits the theme of the album but seems tailor-made for Isaak’s singing style, while Hawaiian standard “Sweet Leilani” gets the right touch of steel guitar twang to suit the song and then some. If there’s a winner, though, it’s the all-debts-paid cover of one of Isaak’s obvious heroes — Roy Orbison, whose majestic “Only the Lonely” gets a low-key but still appropriately dramatic revamp. (by Ned Raggett)

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Personnel:
Chris Isaak (vocals, guitar)
Kenney Dale Johnson (drums)
Rowland Salley (bass, vocals)
Hershel Yatovitz (guitar)

Booklet01ATracklist:
01.Pretty Girls Don’t Cry (Isaak) 3.08
02. Back On Your Side (Isaak) 3.03
03. Only The Lonely (Orbison/Melson) 2.53
04. South Of The Border (Down Mexico Way) (Kennedy/Carr) 3.10
05. I Wonder (Isaak) 2.55
06. Wrong To Love You (Isaak) 3.54
07. Waiting For My Lucky Day (Isaak) 2.38
08. Yellow Bird (Luboff/Bergman) 2.29
09. Two Hearts (Isaak) 3.19
10. Return To Me (Lombardo/DiMinno) 2.17
11. Dancin’ (Isaak) 3.57
12. Sweet Leilani (Owens) 2.17
13. Think Of Tomorrow (Isaak) 2.58

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The official website:
Website

Ray Charles – Genius & Friends (2005)

FrontCover1Atlantic/Rhino’s 2005 Genius & Friends is the end result of a project Ray Charles initiated a few months before his death in June 2004. According to James Austin’s liner notes, Charles called Austin in December of 2003, asking if he could find the masters to an unreleased duets record Ray recorded in 1997 and 1998. Austin found the tapes, but Charles was too sick to work on them, so after his passing — and after his final studio album, the duets record Genius Loves Company, became a number one hit in August of 2004 — Atlantic/Rhino decided to finish off the project, bringing in producer Phil Ramone to oversee the completion of the album. This included bringing in singers to record their parts, since apart from two tracks — a 1994 duet with Diana Ross on “Big Bad Love” and a live 1991 version of “Busted” with Willie Nelson (taken from the television special Ray Charles: 50 Years in Music) — these are all studio constructions, with vocalists duetting with a previously recorded Ray. While not quite the monstrosity it could have been — posthumous duets albums like this always bear an unsettling ghoulish undertow — Genius & Friends is also not a particularly good album either. This isn’t because the pairings are ill conceived — apart from the woefully outmatched American Idol winner Ruben Studdard on “Imagine” (which boasts perhaps Ray’s best vocal performance on this record), there’s nobody here who doesn’t hold his or her own, and Ramone has skillfully edited the new recordings with the existing tapes so it sounds like they were recorded at the same time, even if it rarely sounds as if the vocalists were in the same room together. Rather, the problem is that the productions are caught halfway between ’90s adult contemporary and modern neo-soul, sounding too slick and polished to really be memorable. It’s pleasant enough — and it’s top-loaded, too, with the duets with Angie Stone, Chris Isaak, and Mary J. Blige being among the best cuts — but it’s not as relaxed or appealing as Genius Loves Company, which had the feeling of being a real duets album. This feels like what it is — a professional studio creation. Not a terrible thing per se, but not something that makes for a good album, either.( by Stepen Thomas Erlewine)

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Tracklist:
01. Angie Stone:  All I Want to Do (McKinney/Walden) 4.00
02. Chris Isaak: You Are My Sunshine (Davis/Mitchell) 3.48
03. Mary J. Blige: It All Goes by So Fast (Hirsch/Levy) 5.07
04. Gladys Knight: You Were There (unknown) 3.41
05. The Harlem Gospel Singers / Ruben Studdard: Imagine (Lennon) 3.41
06. Leela James: Compared to What (McDaniels) 3.42
07. Diana Ross: Big Bad Love (Sample/Stephanie Tyrell/Steve Tyrell) 3.42
08. Idina Menzel: I Will Be There (Dakota/Walden) 4.43
09. George Michael: Blame It On The Sun (Wonder/Wright) 4.46
10. John Legend: Touch (McKinney/Walden) 4.40
11. Patti LaBelle / The Andraé Crouch Singers: Shout (Hilden/Walden) 5.10
12. Laura Pausini: Surrender To Love (unknown) 4.13
13. Willie Nelson: Busted (Howard) 2.32
14. Alicia Keys: America the Beautiful (Bates/Ward) 2.58

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