"Gentleman," PSY's follow-up to "Gangnam Style," has already made history.
We’ve had cover albums galore from the likes of Rod Stewart, David Campbell and Human Nature, among others. This has prompted some people to dismiss yet another one by a smooth singing gentleman as unnecessary. But Chris Isaak’s love letter to the legends of the Sun Record label, Beyond The Sun, seems to come from a much more sincere place and is backed by the best of intentions.
Isaak grew up on this diet of fifties music, primarily the rockabilly, blues and country styles. His parents kept a bunch of records in a cupboard and these songs were the soundtrack to his youth and have remained with him over the years. In the liner notes he says: “I have always wanted to make this record” because these are the songs he’s been singing and playing at practice, soundchecks and at home for some time. Almost three decades into his career and Isaak has realised this dream, something that was in part prompted by his reading an interview with the late Sam Phillips. He was the man who discovered and recorded Elvis Presley, Carl Perkins and Johnny Cash, among others – and it came as a shock that he also rated Isaak’s own work.
Phillips’ contribution to music is what binds this set but a huge part of this glue is also courtesy of Elvis as Isaak does no less than eight covers of tracks made famous by the hound dog. From the classics Can’t Help Falling In Love and Now Or Never to the lesser known, How’s the World Treating You and I Forgot To Remember To Forget plus the first track The King ever recorded, My Happiness are all here.
The 19-song set is not a surprising one and nor does it set out to be. The numbers stay very true to the originals, some more so than others and of course, these will never eclipse the real thing. That said, the music is earthy and has a timeless sound as it brims with passion, soul and emotion with the latter focusing primarily on melancholy and heartbreak.
The recording process was described as a fun one and possibly even verged on an exercise in self-indulgence. Isaak admits the covers were “flat out fun to sing”. The band all performed together in a room without headphones, just listening and feeding off what the other was creating. The jovial air shines through, as they all seem to bask in the warm glory of Sun.
There is the stomping, Jerry Lee Lewis piano ditty, Great Balls Of Fire before this is slowed down for the wistful ballad, Can’t Help Falling In Love. There is a cover of Roy Orbison’s Pretty Woman where Isaak’s dulcet tones share a few things in common with the Big O. Live It Up is the only Isaak original to make the cut meaning the record’s title of Beyond The Sun is a bit of a misnomer. It has a fine rock beat but even Isaak himself knew he’d be hard-pressed to write something that would stand up amongst the greats. He tried to offer tunes beyond the Sun classics but this one offering does fall a tad short.
Beyond The Sun sees music’s modern day rebel and gentleman attach his silken croon to 19 enjoyable numbers that seem as honest, affable and charismatic as the artist singing them. It’s a cohesive set of clean-cut rockabilly tunes by the genre’s biggest fan. Proving equal parts saccharine and evocative, Beyond The Sun shows that those pure and simple favourites from a bygone era can offer new light today, a real home beyond the sun.