Review Summary: The soundtrack of a lost love.
When you think of Chris Isaak, adjectives like smooth and sleek may come into your mind, and for good reason. The man has a silky voice and a knack for creating great melodies, while his songwriting sounds influenced by legends like Roy Orbison and Ricky Nelson. Back in 1995, Isaak was already a household name, having released two solid albums in San Francisco Days
(1993) and Heart Shaped World
(1989), which included his most well-known song in “Wicked Game”. Nevertheless, it’s on this album where he realized his full potential as a songwriter.
In a nutshell, Forever Blue
is still that fine slab of rockabilly like its predecessors, but it’s more focused, consistent and features more interesting songwriting. Isaak’s voice is at its best as he sounds like a cross between Elvis and Roy Orbison, whereas when he screams “feel like crying” on the dark and sexy “Baby Did a Bad Bad Thing”, the great Ian Astbury comes to mind. However, Isaak’s velvety voice and trademark croons are not the only takeaways here. There are also those little subtleties like the guitar leads on the driving “Graduation Day” or the clever use of the Hammond on "Go Walking Down There" which provides a genuine retro vibe. And of course, most people are familiar with “Somebody's Crying“ or the aforementioned John Lee Hooker-esque “Baby Did a Bad Bad Thing”, which even if you don’t know that it was featured in Eyes Wide Shut
you’d think that it would fit like a glove in a Stanley Kubrick or a David Lynch film. However, it’s the other cuts that make Forever Blue
an all-around great album like “Changed Your Mind”, “Forever Blue” or “Shadows in a Mirror”, as they complete the LP’s overall atmosphere and theme of lost love. As a result, it’s no surprise that the more upbeat tracks such as “I Believe” and “There She Goes”, even though needed in order to break the monotony, don’t work as well as the equally upbeat "Go Walking Down There", which has a certain charm compared to the aforementioned cuts.
Despite the above hiccups which make the second half of the album less solid than the first one, this is still a great listen. Most people out there have connected Chris Isaak’s fifth release with a lost love, and for good reason, but it’d be a shame to limit the instances of experiencing such a fine effort (unless you go through a breakup quite often, of course). Indeed, Forever Blue’s
emotional impact may be boosted after a breakup, but it is still an excellent and very accessible listen even for those who are in a happy place and unfamiliar with Isaak’s music.