Heart Shaped World
1989: Reprise 9 25837-2
Ill be upfront about this: Wicked Game was what I first heard of Chris Isaak, and I got this album originally because of that and how gasp-inducingly handsome he appeared. Its not lofty, but its honest. However, after actually listening to the album, I found that he was significantly more talented than I tend to expect someone that pretty to actually be, so much so that I got his next album (San Francisco Days) and his previous two (Silvertone and Chris Isaak) in order to know this ones context.
Of the four I have (and I dont rule out adding his more recent work to my collection, I just havent done so), this might be the finest and if its not, San Francisco Days certainly is. The first two albums werent bad, but theyre clearly Isaak and band members finding some identity and a definitive sound, a process which resulted in the confident delivery of this album and everything that followed.
Im not particularly a fan of the gentle-coyote-howling style of crooning that Isaak uses on Wicked Game and other numbers, but he manages to make it almost appealing. There is a sensitivity and intimacy about his voice that forces me to not just sympathize but even wish to comfort which is a dangerous power, and I can only hope that he uses it responsibly in his personal life. (Although recently [November 2004] I happened to catch a glimpse of Isaak performing on Austin City Limits, and he made a comment between songs about meeting a female fan to give her guitar lessons and how she was still spitting out sequins a few days later .)
Right, so apart from the song that got me and everyone else introduced to Chris Isaak who didnt already know about him, Id have to say that Diddly Daddy (which wasnt on the vinyl or cassette releases of this album), the title track, Im Not Waiting, and Wrong To Love You are the reasons I keep playing this album and delight in its existence.
And although Im not at the moment inclined to post a review of his album Silvertone, I want to note that his song Western Stars is a lovely piece of cowboy noodling that he brings off beautifully, and when k.d. lang covered it soon afterwards (on her Shadowland) it already sounded classic (but his recording, the original, was just a smidgen more poignant).
Comments © 2005 Mark Ellis Walker, except as noted, and no claim is made to the images and quoted lyrics.