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CHRIS ISAAK - THE BEST OF CHRIS ISAAK - WARNER MUSIC
Record Rating: *****

Chris Isaak - The Best Of Chris Isaak - Warner Music Youíve to hand it to Chris Isaak. Heís been making records for close to three decades and he's still the very model of effortless cool with a voice to match. For a guy who's just turned fifty, he's still a big rock star, has starred in his own hip TV show, and even his hair has its own fan club.

Heís released nine extraordinary albums in the course of his career, and yet the multi platinum-selling artist has never released a greatest hits album. Hard to believe, but itís true. Aiming to set that right, The Best Of Chris Isaak is a long overdue look back at one of musicís most consistent talents, gathering together 18 of his finest tunes for the first ever career retrospective.

There are those who will argue that this CD is worth the price for his rendition of Wicked Game alone, and you'll be hard-pressed to find anyone to debate them. An ode to the broken-hearted, Wicked Game originally was a spare and moody love song from Isaakís third album Heart-Shaped World that Director David Lynch decided to use in his film Wild At Heart. Given the fact that it sounded like nothing else on the radio in 1991, the song hit the Top Ten and the video, a steamy clip featuring him rolling around on the beach with a topless Helena Christensen, made Isaak a worldwide star. But donít be construed into thinking that this is all the Californian surfer has to offer.

Like Elvis and his other idol Roy Orbison, he seems to sing as if it were always 3 a.m., languidly strumming out clever melancholy tunes about love found and lost. His rich, sobbing voice is really a gorgeous instrument, and it's clear that ballads are his true forte, whether he's in a sonorous baritone on dreamy songs like Somebodyís Crying and Two Hearts, or in a quavering falsetto on the melancholy Blue Spanish Sky. The album also includes a few new songs; the heart achingly lovely King Without A Castle is one, while a new emotional take of Orbisonís lovelorn Only The Lonely finds Isaak on a fine high note.

This is, without a doubt, the best album youíll hear all year, for itís a supremely elegant late-night soundtrack, equally suited to the solitary heartache or a steamy romance. My minor quibble is the omission of some of his best work here, for one whereís hit single Funeral In The Rain and the heart wrenching Nothing To Say. You can easily compile another 18 track best of set from Isaak's catalog from the songs that were left out, which would be just as good. And hopefully someone will, in the not too distant future. Run, donít walk, to get this one.

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