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CHRIS ISAAK (Buy CDs by this artist)
Silvertone (Warner Bros.) 1985
Chris Isaak (Warner Bros.) 1987
Heart Shaped World (Reprise) 1989
San Francisco Days (Reprise) 1993
Forever Blue (Reprise) 1995
Baja Sessions (Reprise) 1996
Speak of the Devil (Reprise) 1998
Wicked Game (Reprise) 1998
Always Got Tonight (Reprise) 2002
Christmas (Reprise) 2004
Best of Chris Isaak (Reprise) 2006

The look of a sensitive young Elvis...moody, atmospheric tunes...sweet, brooding vocals...heaps of twangy guitar. Chris Isaak has his shtick down cold, that's for sure. Happily, this retro package offers more than selfconscious imagery: he walks the tightrope stretched between irony and sincerity as well as anyone. At his best, Isaak summons up the deep hurt of classic blues or the soaring spirits of footloose rockabilly. On Silvertone, consult the swinging "Livin' for Your Lover" or "Western Stars," a lazy, loping piece of sagebrush hokum. On Chris Isaak, try the quietly menacing "You Owe Me Some Kind of Love" or "Blue Hotel," the woeful sound of a tortured soul crying for help. No wonder Isaak's been compared to Roy Orbison.

Heart Shaped World has more of the wonderful same, from the high and lonesome "I'm Not Waiting" to the slo-mo "Blue Spanish Sky" to "Wrong to Love You," a quietly driving tale of romantic woe. Upon release, this entrancing LP inspired the same chart action as its predecessors (i.e., none). But wonders never cease: After foreshadowing his future film career with a walk-on in Jonathan Demme's Married to the Mob, Isaak contributed the gorgeously despondent "Wicked Game," one of Heart Shaped World's finest moments, to the soundtrack of David Lynch's Wild at Heart. By early '91, the boy had himself a bona fide hit.

[Jon Young]