Judge Brett Cullum applauds the singer who made falsetto manly.
Our reviews of Chris Isaak Christmas (published November 26th, 2008), Chris Isaak: Greatest Hits Live (published August 24th, 2009), and Chris Isaak: Live / Greatest Hits (Blu-ray) (published January 5th, 2012) are also available.
"I've got an affinity for pretty music. Somebody who can hit those high notes and give it the full Pat Boone. This album is focused on being pretty. It's a party album, but a party for two."—Chris Isaak
Chris Isaak released his album The Baja Sessions in 1996, a stripped-down collection of covers and a handful of original songs. Ah! The dreaded cover album had arrived from Mr. Isaak, just as it does for most artists with a long enough career. The oddest thing is that many of these songs are Isaak covering himself. "Wrong to Love You," "Pretty Girls Don't Cry," "Back on Your Side," "Dancin'," and "Two Hearts" are his own from earlier albums. The rest of the songs come from Roy Orbison, Dean Martin, and Gene Autry. Chris is one of those artists you either have a passion for or somebody who slips by unnoticed. His music is pretty and well produced, and he seems as likeable and agreeable as his penchant for quirky old tunes of the crooner variety.
Back in the mid-nineties record companies fully realized the power of images married with their product, thanks to 15 years of MTV proving it. Warner Bros. made quite a few video albums to release with their traditional albums. They thought it was a brilliant idea because they could produce all the videos at once, and fans would pay for both the CD and the VHS. Problem was, most fans just settled for the audio CD. Now that DVD has taken over and many compact discs are getting sonic upgrades to DVD's 5.1 format, you'll probably see these video albums make a comeback.
Chris Isaak: Baja Sessions is a release that has been delayed here in the U.S. by Rhino records and has yet to announce an official release date. But we here at DVD Verdict have spooky connections and somehow got our hands on this DVD way before it will come out. Okay…maybe it was just a mail mistake, but it's here before the court. You can preorder it through Amazon, and maybe if enough of us do that Baja Sessions will finally come to retail shelves. Got any rabid fans out there?
The songs are basically what you get on the CD, but in a different order:
• "Think of Tomorrow"
It's footage of Chris and the band playing in an abandoned city hall, surfing, driving classic Cadillacs, and playing guitar next to a cactus, plus the occasional Mexican villager walking by. Between songs you get Chris talking straight to the camera, making goofy self-deprecating jokes in his aw-shucks kind of way. He looks good, as always.I always found it comforting to see such a good-looking guy singing about how much pain he is in—the heartbreaker singing songs of heartbreak. There are also some truly funny moments, such as a Mariachi band covering "Wicked Game." Lines from the lyrics pop up right before the song plays. Much of the time Chris alone, looking wistful or content, depending on the mood of the song.
The transfer is standard fullscreen and has varying quality. You get grainy moody black-and-white, grainy moody washed-out color, and a couple of pretty clear shots with high filters on to put Isaak into soft focus. The audio, which is offered in both stereo and a very good 5.1 mix, is the main attraction here. No extras at all, unless you're a fan of the "song selection" feature.
I'd say this one was for the fans. And yes, I count myself among them. I've loved Isaak's moody, beautiful music for a long time and own all the albums. He's the perfect music to play on a date—or when you've just been dumped. He's there in the best of times and the worst of times. So I say bring on Baja Sessions. I'll sit there and pretend I look as good as he does and can sing just as well. Sigh.
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