The sound levels are a tad low, so turn it up — but a great 14-song set filled with new songs, covers, and some twists on classics. Isaak brings a girl up on stage to play maracas on “Baby Did A Bad Bad Thing,” and comments on her scarf, playfully asking her if it’s cold in there. You can hear the smile in her voice as she replies, “Not anymore…”
San Francisco’s surf-troubadour Chris Isaak rolled back into my life last week with Mr. Lucky, his first new studio album since 2002′s Always Got Tonight and 1998′s Speak Of The Devil, both well-loved albums that I’ve listened to hundreds of times over the years and still delight me.
Isaak is a stylistic anomaly, consistently making good tunes that defy the times. There’s a bit of the California Blue of Roy Orbison, the golden slide guitar and twang of shiny old country, and the marvelous malleability of his unmatched lonesome warble. Over the years, Isaak has traversed surf music territory, Spanish adobes in the hot sun, wrenching little acoustic blues ballads, and good ole rock and roll. I’ve seen him in small sweaty San Francisco clubs and it’s the closest I’ve ever felt to Beatlemania, Elvis faintings, and that flutter of girlish embarrassment. He always evokes the winter waves crashing under the Golden Gate for me.
I adore Chris Isaak, this I will readily admit. I once had a real good friendship that first sparked over a shared love of Isaak. I think it’s rare to find two kids these days (by kids I mean twenty-somethings) who appreciate the bright talent of Chris Isaak, so those days remain an unparalleled treat. Listening to his new album this weekend, especially the bittersweet harmonies of his duet with Trisha Yearwood on “Breaking Apart” (an older song), makes me a bit melancholy for the things we’ve lost. His music is always, always good for that – - Forever Blue remains one of the greatest albums about the end of a relationship that I own. After all these years, I’m still interested in what he’s doing next.
I’ve been streaming the whole album this week through his MySpace, feeling out the sway and the break that somehow always feels immediately familiar. “You Don’t Cry Like I Do,” is an immediate (sad, sad) favorite, while “We Lost Our Way” makes me want to hit the California highway, ocean teal out the windowside. His songs remind me of places that once were home.
This tune from Mr. Lucky has been a favorite of mine, finally receiving the proper album treatment. Originally buried as an Australian b-side, it always makes me smile from start to finish. Something so simple, so immediate, so…seventeen about those lyrics. Best I Ever Had – Chris Isaak
San Franciscans!! Go see Isaak Monday night at Amoeba, 6pm.
Do give him a kiss for me.
It finally cooled off enough today for me to go out for a run just as it was getting dark tonight (almost 9pm, I love the long summer days). There was a humidity in the air, and as I ran facing west, towards the mountains and Pikes Peak, the sky was flaming orange and lightning was crackling electric all around me. Kinda scary, but also very cool.
I had my iPod on shuffle and three great songs came up in a row that struck me as being perfect for my now-completed summer mix. So now, if there were one or two (or three) songs in there that you didn’t care for (be it your Steve Miller Band, your Weezer, etc), you can do some customized drag and drop substitutions. All three of these would fit just fine for your summer listening pleasure.
A note on that last one: if you can get past their repeated flub of the chorus lyrics (it’s “time OF the season FOR loviiiiing…”), the beat is insanely good. And the original song is a cultural watershed in my book for being the first time in popular culture that someone posed the all-important question, “Who’s your daddy?” Go Zombies.
Bruce Springsteen is set to get the tribute treatment from the musical community on April 5 at Carnegie Hall in New York. If you were lucky enough to click on the ticket sale website on January 31, then you may have already snagged yourself a pair of tickets (in what concert producer Michael Dorf is calling a “premature leak.” Those are always a bit embarassing). Tickets legitimately went on sale Monday (and seem to be sold out) with the proceeds benefitting the Music For Youth program, as with previous tributes to Dylan & Joni Mitchell.
The benefit show will feature appearances from Badly Drawn Boy, Pete Yorn, Steve Earle, Chris Isaak and Josh Ritter, among others. I can’t find any recordings of Isaak ever covering Springsteen (some fan correct me if I am wrong), and same for Ritter (although there is plenty of press likening him to Springsteen’s songwriting). But here’s some hints of what the night may sound like . . .
Maybe it’s the huge blizzard that has (this time seriously) immobilized my city, but I am feeling all holly and jolly. I think that my favorite Christmas album that I am playing the most ’round the house this yuletide season is Chris Isaak‘s 2004 Christmas CD.
In addition to rockin’ retro covers of several old standards, there are five originals and duets with Stevie Nicks as well. It’s got such a nice cozy feel to it, with a hint of the surf/jangle/crooner vibe that makes me love Chris. I do recommend buying the whole thing for your Christmas enjoyment — it’s one I look forward to taking out each year. Some people have an aversion to Isaak, but not me. There is nothing but love in my heart for that man.
And this song’s not on the album, but I have categorized it in my iTunes as a bonus track for the CD. The shimmering cymbal roll at the beginning of the track is reminiscent of the sound of the waves – just me and Chris ’round a fire on Ocean Beach singing the season.
My heart is still pounding and my hands are shaking from the intensity of the Italy v. Australia match that Italy just won on a penalty kick (during which my ability to breathe momentarily left me). FORZA ITALIA! That was gorgeous.
And as of this very moment I am #1 all by myself in the World Cup Bloggers Pool. That is a feat unto itself, since, as we have discussed, I am no kind of soccer superstar. I just have a way of predicting what glistening, lovely European men will do next.
It’s a gift, really.
Diventa Blu Arizona Translated from Italian, this song title means “Become Blue,” and is my salute to Gli Azzurri, the beautiful Italian national calcio (soccer) team in their blue jerseys. According to Connor over at iGIF, this band Arizona is going to be huge, but the fact that this song is sung in a breathy, ethereal Italian (almost Radiohead-esque), combined with the layered and interesting low-key electronica is enough to get me to listen. From their debut album Welcome Back Dear Children (coming out in August).
Thirteen Wilco This song, this whole tribute album is amazingly good. As I mentioned before, and as you have probably read on assorted other music sites, the Big Star tribute album (Big Star, Small World) has finally been released, after being recorded and then shelved for several years. Wilco‘s turn is sad and rich, nostalgic and truly lovely. I’ve listened to it over and over, but this whole CD is great, with contributions by Matthew Sweet, Teenage Fanclub, The Posies, Whiskeytown, Juliana Hatfield and more. Highly recommended and available on eMusic.
Eleanor The Low Millions I have been meaning to post this for months, but somehow forgot. Fronted by Leonard Cohen’s son Adam Cohen (who has released French-language albums in his native Canada), California’s Low Millionswere named an Artist To Watch by Filter Magazine. This track, which did get some radio play, is yet another upbeat song about a breakup (!) with catchy hooks and a fabulous beat that kicks in at about 20 seconds. From their 2004 debut album Ex-Girlfriends (Manhattan Records).
Notice The Ring Chris Isaak This one is in honor of Mr. Chris Isaak‘s 50th (!!) birthday today. I tell ya, that man does not look a day over handsome to me. For his special day, his hometown of Stockton, CA dedicated today as “Chris Isaak Day.” This song celebrates all that is rogue, feisty, and wonderful about Isaak. A retro-rocker from 2002′s Always Got Tonight.
I have also heard that Giant Drag does a distorted cover of this song as well, but have had no luck finding it. Anyone out there have it? Annie from the band emailed me back and she doesn’t have a live recording, but maybe some uberfan out there?
Name: Heather Browne Location: Colorado, originally by way of California Giving context to the torrent since 2005.
"I love the relationship that anyone has with music: because there's something in us that is beyond the reach of words, something that eludes and defies our best attempts to spit it out. It's the best part of us, probably, the richest and strangest part..."
—Nick Hornby, Songbook
"Music has always been a matter of energy to me, a question of Fuel. Sentimental people call it Inspiration, but what they really mean is Fuel." —Hunter S. Thompson
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