Retro Review: Chris Isaak – Forever Blue

Chris Isaak

Forever Blue

chris isaak

In last weeks Top Ten list I made the assertion that Chris Isaak’s 1995 album, Forever Blue, is one of the most underrated albums of the 90’s.  Known best for 1989 smash hit “Wicked Games”, Isaak has had a surprisingly enduring career in making quality music, even if he is less and less recognized.  It is certainly time for Chris Isaak to get more recognition of LxL, rather than just a passing reference in a Top Ten list.

I think if one quality could be pinpointed that sets Forever Blue apart from most of the rest of 90’s music is the sheer timelessness of the sound Isaak was able to achieve.  If you just throw on Forever Blue for someone not acquainted with Isaak’s work and ask them what era the album is from, they might answer anywhere from the 50’s to present day.  His electric guitar work hearkens back to many of the country rock noodlers of decades long past, and Forever Blue seems to be the album he attained perfection on in that regard.  The tonal qualities different artists get out of the same instrument is astounding, and Chris Isaak is one of those artists that defies logic when you hear him go to work.  The atmospheric electric work on “Graduation Day” and “There She Goes” are prime examples of this mastery.

Another factor setting Forever Blue apart from the rest of Isaak’s very strong catalog is the thematic cohesiveness of bitterness, lost love and a general attitude of eff you.  When researching this review, I actually came across something interesting I didn’t know before.  In the liner notes for Forever Blue, Isaak included a letter to an anonymous former love interest who apparently left him.  This is not a rare spark for a musician’s best work, but it doesn’t make this experience any less effective in lighting a fire in Isaak.  You can hear the anger in more rambunctious tunes like “Goin’ Nowhere” and “Baby Did a Bad Bad Thing”.  But, you can also feel the pain in the quieter moments of songs like “Changed Your Mind”.

Forever Blue is the personification of the five stages of grief, leaving out only “acceptance”.  Isaak does legitimately emote his feeling that he will not be able to let this betrayal go.  In ~40 minutes Chris Isaak describes the end of a relationship to perfection.  If you don’t “get” the album now, wait until you go through a rough end to a relationship and you may find a little more appreciation.  I love this album, and hope it finds a new audience someday soon by way of some late-career gem from Isaac.

10/11

Can’t Miss:  “Graduation Day”, “Baby Did a Bad Bad Thing”, “There She Goes”, “Forever Blue”, “Things Go Wrong”

Can’t Hit: none

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