January 30, 2016

20,000 Vinyl LPs 49: Chris Isaak ~ Silvertone Dancin'

 cover photo by Rick Lopez
photo of album cover by Styrous®

Here's another cycle coming full circle for me. In 1989, I wrote music reviews for Face It Magazine. In May of that year, I wrote about a performance by Chris Isaak held at a tiny bar in Oakland. The magazine died and the bar closed decades ago but I remember the concert vividly. Even though the bar was tiny it was almost empty. In spite of that, Isaak gave a performance with a vitality and excitement that would have done justice to a concert in a jammed-packed stadium. This as well as his music impressed me profoundly.     

Isaak has come a long way since 1989. Today he is performing for the Superbowl 50 in Justin Herman Plaza here in San Francisco, California. The concert will be broadcast on CBS at 7 PM tonight and I, as well as millions around the world, will watch it. That's quite a circle for him and for me.       

photo by Doug Kanter

His debut album, Silvertone, has been my favorite of all the many albums he has produced. I have two favorite songs on this album.   

At the top is, Dancin'; which is exactly what the rhythm makes you want to do. You can't help but move to it. His voice swoops and soars through the tune. 

Next would be, Western Stars, which was covered by the sensational k. d. Lang. What a fantastic song this is; it has the flavor of a traditional, old-timey, 40's cowboy Western song but modern in every way. It is slow, smooth and mellow but it packs a wallop. Isaak's voice is dreamy with vocal flights accompanied by the smooth slide-guitar work of James Calvin Wilsey.      

Both Voodoo, with it's eerie, ghostly sound, and Funeral in the Rain, with it's nostalgic message, are pretty good songs as well (links below to songs on YouTube). 

 back cover photos by Michael Zagaris
photo of album cover back by Styrous®

Christopher Joseph "Chris" Isaak was born on June 26, 1956, in Stockton, California. His father's family is Catholic Black Sea German from North Dakota. Isaak's mother is Italian American, from Genoa (a beautiful ethnic blend).  

He was Student Body President in his senior year, class valedictorian and head of the all-male cheer squad. That's a very nicely rounded-out profile!  

record sleeve front
sleeve photo by Marek Majewski
photo record sleeve by Styrous®

Silvertone was not a great success when it was released in 1985; I have no idea why. However, The track Dancin' was the first music video featured on MTV. Two other tracks from the album, Gone Ridin' and Livin' for Your Lover, were featured in the David Lynch cult classic Blue Velvet. Go figure!   

record sleeve back
photo by Styrous®

Isaak has appeared in numerous films, playing cameo roles. He starred, with Keanu Reeves and Bridget Fonda in the 1993 Bernardo Bertolucci-directed Little Buddha, and played a major role in David Lynch's Twin Peaks: Fire Walk with Me (1992). Other motion pictures include Married to the Mob (1988), The Silence of the Lambs (1991), That Thing You Do! (1996), A Dirty Shame (2004), and The Informers (2008).

He guest-starred on the "The One After the Superbowl, Part One", the Super Bowl XXX edition of the television sitcom Friends (talk about Life imitating Art!) He was also in the HBO miniseries, From the Earth to the Moon, as astronaut Ed White, the first American astronaut to leave the confines of his spacecraft, who later died in the 1967 Apollo 1 fire whose anniversary was a few days ago.  

side one: record label detail
detail photo by Styrous®

At some point many years ago I heard he was romantically linked to a beautiful and prominent San Francisco socialite (shades of It Was a Very Good Year).     

side two: record label detail
detail photo by Styrous®

Track listing

All songs written by Chris Isaak.

Side 1: 
  1. "Dancin'" – 3:44
  2. "Talk to Me" – 3:04
  3. "Livin' for Your Lover" – 2:56
  4. "Back on Your Side" – 3:14
  5. "Voodoo" – 2:44
  6. "Funeral in the Rain" – 3:18
  7. "The Lonely Ones" – 3:12
 Side 2: 
  1. "Unhappiness" – 3:10
  2. "Tears" – 2:44
  3. "Gone Ridin'" – 2:36
  4. "Pretty Girls Don't Cry" – 2:24
  5. "Western Stars" – 3:12
  6. "Another Idea" – 2:53 (U.S. edition only)



  • Produced by Erik Jacobsen
  • Engineered by Tom Mallon, Mark Needham, Lee Herschberg, Dave Carlson & Pat Craig
  • Mastered by Greg Fulginiti at Artisan Sound Recorders

Label: Warner Bros. Records ‎– 1-25156
Format: Vinyl, LP, Album
Country: US
Released: 1985
Genre: Rock
Style: Rock & Roll, Rockabilly

Chris Isaak links on the Net: 
Chris Isaak website         

Chris Isaak songs on YouTube:               
Western Stars           
Funeral in the Rain            

It Was a Very Good Year           

I'll keep on Dancin'

Styrous® ~ Saturday, January 30, 2016

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