The Baja Sessions

Chris Isaak

Reprise, 1996

REVIEW BY: Jason Warburg


[Adapted from a review originally appearing in On The Town magazine on November 12, 1996]

San Francisco-based crooner Chris Isaak has carved himself out a brooding yet pleasant little musical niche over the years. Combining the chiseled good looks of young Elvis, the high, melancholy vocal phrasing of Roy Orbison and the rockabilly romanticism they both embraced, he's always had one of the most determinedly—and accurately—retro sounds around. my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

In contrast to fellow Elvis-worshiper and dynamic showman Raul Malo of The Mavericks, Isaak echoes The King's sad, sweet, longing side, the element more or less perfected by Orbison. These influences were stamped all over Isaak's two most successful albums, 1989's Heart Shaped World (with its MTV hit "Wicked Game") and 1993's San Francisco Days. Forever Blue (1995) took the heartbreak theme to the extreme, chronicling what sounded like a major relationship crash-landing.

The Baja Sessions finds Isaak picking up the pieces and edging back toward having a little fun. The album, recorded on the road in Baja, is a loose assortment of a few new songs (including "Think of Tomorrow"), several covers (including a brave and faithful take on Orbison's classic "Only the Lonely"), a passel of rerecorded material from previous albums ("Two Hearts," "Wrong to Love You," "Dancin'"), and a couple of odds and ends (notably the desolate ballad "I Wonder," which made a memorable appearance earlier this year on the Tin Cup movie soundtrack).

While he's put together more ambitious efforts, this unusual collection of songs old and new is a solid starting point for anyone intrigued by Isaak's unique talent. Elvis may have left the building, but his musical descendants are still going strong.

Rating: B

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