Chris Isaak Review: Beyond The Sun

Chris Isaak’s latest release Beyond The Sun. CD Review by Michael Ross. 

What’s old is what’s new again…..and what’s wrong with that? Absolutely nothing, especially when we’re talking about music. The good stuff. Like the raw, soulful sounds of Sun Records that captivated millions of people and birthed the “Million Dollar Quartet.” It was this musical energy that stirred up a young Chris Issak and sparked the passion that put him on a path that made music his life – his whole life.

And he wants you to feel it, too. He’s on a mission with his latest record, Chris Isaak: Beyond The Sun, released on the Indie label, Vanguard. His tribute to the artists of Sun Records vibrates with his reverence for their music, and he’s masterfully emulated the vibe that made the music of that time extraordinary.

Some of the biggest Icons and most influential artists of all time (Johnny Cash, Elvis, Howlin’ Wolk, Junior Parker, Jerry Lee Lewis, Charlie Rich, Roy Orbison, Carl Perkins, Conway Twitty & more) were once part of the magic that was created through the Sun Records label- a foundation of Blues, Rock and Roll, Rockabilly and Country Music and the mergence of those genres combined.  Isaak’s Beyond The Sun covers many songs released on the label (with a dominating presence of Elvis songs) and he slips in a couple of originals that transition seamlessly between the covers.

Isaak has always had that deep and mysterious intensity in his voice that makes his sound distinctive.  In this project, he keeps that originality, all the while paying homage to the original recording artist with his delivery. He growls like Elvis, moans like Orbison, but he’s still got the ghostly tone that is unmistakably Isaak.

Johnny Cash’s “Ring of Fire” starts off the album with a beautifully executed rendition of the June Carter original. He narrates heartbreak naturally and effortlessly. For a minute you hear Cash, then you hear Isaak, and you’re in love with the song all over again. His take on Cash’s  “I Walk The Line ” is reserved yet potent. Twelve of the twenty-five tracks on the double disc set are Elvis tunes, and he’s definitely in the groove when covering the King. One of the best tracks onBeyond The Sun is the emotional and vocally impeccable “Can’t Help Falling In Love.”  His signature seductive croon is right at home on the other Elvis standout tracks, “It’s Now or Never” and “Trying To Get To You.”   Lots of reverb and jumpin’ piano accompany a rockin’ delivery of the Jerry Lee Lewis hit “Great Balls of Fire”  and his vocals let loose like never before on “Miss Pearl.” Jimmy Wages (a lesser known Sun artist) recorded “Miss Pearl” in 1957, and Isaak’s version smokes! Even Howlin’ Wolf is well represented in “Everybody’s In The Mood” and I daresay Orbison would be proud of “Pretty Woman.”

There’s not a bad track in the lot. You can feel his love for these songs and the artists who recorded them. It comes at you loud and strong. Listen to this record, and you’ll be inspired to get out all the Sun music in your library. And that means Isaak did it right.

Track listing

1. “Ring of Fire” (Johnny Cash 1963)

2. “Trying to Get To You” (Elvis Presley 1955)

3. “I Forgot to Remember to Forget” (Elvis Presley 1955)

4. “Great Balls of Fire” (Jerry Lee Lewis 1957)

5. “Can’t Help Falling in Love” (Elvis Presley 1961)

6. “Dixie Fried” (Carl Perkins 1956)

7. “How’s the World Treating You” (Elvis Presley 1956)

8. “It’s Now or Never” (Elvis Presley 1960)

9. “Miss Pearl” (Jimmy Wages 1957)

10. “Live It Up” (Chris Isaak original)

11. “I Walk the Line” (Johnny Cash 1956)

12. “So Long I’m Gone” (Warren Smith 1957)

13. “She’s Not You” (Elvis Presley 1962)

14. “My Happiness” (Elvis Presley 1953)

Deluxe Edition bonus disc

1. “My Baby Left Me” (Elvis Presley 1956)

2. “Oh, Pretty Woman” (Roy Orbison 1964)

3. “Doin’ the Best I Can” (Elvis Presley 1960)

4. “Your True Love” (Carl Perkins 1957)

5. “Crazy Arms” (Jerry Lee Lewis 1958)

6. “Lovely Loretta” (Chris Isaak original)

7. “Everybody’s in the Mood” (Howlin’ Wolf 1952)

8. “I’m Gonna Sit Right Down and Cry (Over You)”  (Elvis Presley 1956)

9. “Love Me” (Elvis Presley 1956)

10. “Doncha’ Think It’s Time” (Elvis Presley 1958)

11. “That Lucky Old Sun” (Jerry Lee Lewis 1956)

~ Michael Ross

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