The Gentle Bounce of the Butterfly (2/07/2003)
Chris Isaak, Always Got Tonight (Reprise 2002) - With a recording career approaching 20 years (his first album, Silvertone, was released in 1985), Chris Isaak has become an Everyman. Always Got Tonight is one of the best releases of his career, as Isaak finds an excellent mix of pop, country, and retro.
Says Isaak (who originally hails from Stockton, California), "I think I've had a very good life. I certainly don't want to bring people a message. I'm a romantic, and I like ballads. I like singing pretty...I've had tough times, some you've heard about more because I sing for a living...I'm not dark on stage, and I'm not somber."
Now in his second season on the Showtime series, The Chris Isaak Show, Isaak has found a platform to mix his musical abilities, acting talents, and sense of humor. Isaak also appeared in such movies as Twin Peaks; Fire Walk With Me, and can thank David Lynch for helping jumpstart his career with the cinematic use of the moody, "Wicked Game."
On Always Got Tonight, Isaak works with his long time touring band: Roland Sally on bass, Hershel Yatovitz on guitar, and Kenney Dale Johnson on drums. Remarks Isaak, "The show has allowed all of us to express different parts of our personalities. I don't think I could do a show that didn't directly tie-in with my musical life."
With Isaak, it starts with a distinctive voice, with his hovering falsetto and a hint of Roy Orbison. The album starts strong, with such upbeat numbers as "One Day" and "Let Me Down Easy." Isaak shifts into a rock mode with the title track, which is not surprising, as the album was produced by John Shanks (who has also worked with Stevie Nicks and Melissa Etheridge), and mixed by Chris Lord-Alge (with two songs mixed by Jack Joseph Puig).
The uptempo pace continues with "Notice the Ring," in which the mix allows all the instruments to have their own space, including Isaak's expressive voice. Says Chris, "[My producer,] John [Shanks] is more than just a smart guy who knows his way around a studio. He is also a damned good musician. He's got chops."
Shanks returns the compliment: "It's kind of a blind date initially and slowly we gained trust in each other...We were two guys in the sand box hashing it out. He wasn't going to just show up and put his picture on the record."
Always Got Tonight is Isaak's strongest album in years. I confess - I've taken little note of his recent releases, such as The Baja Session (1996). Ballads like "I See You Everywhere" remind me of Isaak's strengths. And the concluding "Nothing To Say," shows all of Isaak's professionalism. Adults should flock to this radio friendly set. It's twelve solid tracks, without a miss.
Julia Fordham, Concrete Love (Vanguard Records 2002) - Julia Fordham, a British singer with a delicate voice, scores on Concrete Love. With her soaring voice, Fordham finds a comfortable adult contemporary mix on her seventh album.
Musicians include Larry Kline on keyboards and bass, Billy Preston on piano and Hammond B-3 organ, Dean Parts on guitars, Mark Goldenberg on guitars, Helik Hadar, Ika Levy, and Kline on drum programming. Providing backing vocals on three tracks are Sweet Pea Akinson and Sir Henry Bowens and Willy Green.
The album has a gentle adult sound, sometimes too slow on tracks like "Foolish Thing." Yet there are many highlights, including the gentle bounce of "Butterfly" ("I'm like a butterfly pushing against the wind/You're like a magnet pulling me back in") and the happy vibe of "Wake Up With You" (sings Julia, with exuberance, "I want to get lucky/I want to get laid/I want to lay down in the bed that we made together").
Julia is joined by India.arie for the title track, and our friend Joe Henry shows up with guess vocals on the concluding, "Alleluia." For some reason, I hear hints of the jazz sophistication of Boz Scaggs on tracks like "Concrete Love."
Smart songs for consulting adults. That's what Julia Fordham delivers on Concrete Love.
Beth Lapides, UN-Cabaret (Uncabaret 2002) - It's hard to review a comedy album, because everyone's funny bone is in a different place. Beth Lapides, working out of Los Angeles, has founded the un-cabaret, a resolving cast of comedians that performs on tv, radio, the web, and live.
Un-Cabaret boasts 18 tracks, with brief musical snip-its between, such that it plays like a radio program. Who did I like? Patton Oswalt, with "The End of An Era" about a foreigner who kept calling and getting his answering machine. Then Mike McDonald, doing a turn as "Faye Dunaway's Comedy Coach," segwaying into the sublime Julius Sweeney performing "Christopher Walken's Cat." Perhaps the funniest track on the disc, as Sweeney nails down Walken's vocal inflections.
There is two very funny tracks with Irish overtones - "The Golden Globes" by Michael Patrick King and "The Happiest Place On Earth" by Bob Odenkirk.
Julia Sweeney makes an encore appearance with "I Recently Started Having Sex Again" (remember Julius' awesome show God Said Ha! about her encounters with cancer), and another sex gag on "The Scream of the Fly" by Laura Kightlinger.
Musical interludes (pretty much unecessary) are provided by the Vandals, Ultrababyfat, Frogdog, and W.O.M.B.
Un-Cabaret is a fresh blast of LA comedy. Have fun with Beth Lapides.
For more information, contact:
Mr. Greg Miller
758 South Windsor Blvd.
Los Angeles, CA 90005
- Randy Krbechek © 2003
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