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Review: 'Speak of the Devil,' it's Isaak with another winner

Web posted on:
Monday, December 14, 1998 12:44:51 PM EST

From Reviewer Wendy Brandes

(CNN) -- Chris Isaak isn't a household name -- except in VH-1 households. As faithful viewers know, the artfully shot, black-and-white video for 1990's "Wicked Game" is guaranteed a spot in any "Most Sexy" countdown. The plaintive love song, the scudding clouds, Helena Christensen tastefully topless on the beach ... who says you can't please everyone? Isaak is a guy's guy because he gets to embrace a supermodel, but he's also a girl's guy, because he does it in such a moodily romantic way.

"Speak of the Devil," his seventh album, is another crowd pleaser, an eclectically styled blend of rockabilly and California pop. On it, Isaak is both crooner and guitar-wielding surfer dude. He's the thinking woman's heartthrob -- a good-looking bad boy begging to be tamed.

Just to make sure that you know he is, in fact, from Mars, he kicks off the album with "Please," a rock `n roll complaint about gender word wars. "I keep listening very quietly ... there's a long list of what's wrong with me," Isaak murmurs, then snaps: "What's the problem? What's the question? What's the answer? Where's this headin'?"


[220k MPEG-3] or [300k WAV]

[180k MPEG-3] or [250k WAV]

"Walk Slow"
[220k MPEG-3] or [300k WAV]

"Like the Way She Moves"
[225k MPEG-3] or [305k WAV]

"Talkin' About a Home"
[215k MPEG-3] or [295k WAV]

(All sound courtesy Reprise Records)

But by the next track, "Flying," Isaak's Venusian side is showing. Vocally, Isaak sounds like a cool cat (just imagine him in a black turtleneck) pattering over a jazzy accompaniment. Lyrically, he's more like a story-telling country singer, if a country singer sang about Paris: "I was playing a club by the Eiffel tower, taking a break for half an hour, a girl from the bar came up to talk..." And what a compliment he pays her: "We talked and we talked and we lay on the bed/I can remember every word she said/ Never met a girl like that before/Every day I miss her more."

Need to win back your girl? Check this out

Hey, guys, need to woo a special lady back? Serenade her with "Walk Slow," with its Beach Boy overtones and tender lyrics: "Walk slow/ think what you're doing/don't go/my heart is breaking." If that fails, cry into your beer to the accompaniment of "Breaking Apart," a ballad reminiscent of Elvis in his prime: "I'll be fine/Just give me time/'Cause I'm breaking apart inside."

For pure toe-tapping fun, "Like the Way She Moves" is a bluesy ode to bedroom antics with what sounds like a few licks of "Spirit in the Sky" thrown in: "I met a girl/She was half out of her mind/That's okay 'cause I'm half out of mine." There's also a hint of what's to come: "She made it clear from the start it was a one-night stand/But I was thinking of ways to make her change her plan."

And sure enough, by "Talkin' Bout a Home," the second-to-last song, it's happily-ever-after time. Amid late-'60s reverb, Isaak sings the words so many women dream (in vain) of hearing: "Pretty girls they go walking by /I don't even give a glance/Since I met you I changed everything/I don't want to take a chance."

By the time he gets to singing soulfully about wedding rings, a girl might be tempted to believe Isaak's singing to her personally. Don't fool yourself, honey. He's singing to me.

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