Chris Isaak’s most polished album is also one of his best, focusing more on Roy Orbison-style rock ‘n’ roll than broken-hearted ballads.
A long way from the jungle howls on 1989’s Heart Shaped World the instruments on Tonight are better mixed, with Kenny Dale Johnson’s drumming and the rest of the band clearer as well. A few piano and violin notes are even thrown in, but it’s not as surprising as Isaak’s distorted voice opening a couple of songs. The credit and the blame for the studio magic goes almost entirely to Isaak’s new producer, John Shanks.
Isaak songwriting and lyrics – always pulling in touches of Orbison, the Bobby Fuller Four and the Everly Brothers – are as good as usual. “Courthouse” is easily one his best songs and the album has songs any artist would be proud to have written: “I See You Everywhere,” “One Day” and “Someone to Love.”
Only two songs on the album go wrong: “Always Got Tonight” and “Notice the Ring.” These are not songs that you should merely avoid, run from them as if pumas were in pursuit. “Always Got Tonight” sounds like a mutant combo of Isaak and Sheryl Crow – some sort of “Frankenstein” monster for the key demographic of urban professional women under 30. Isaak himself produced “Notice the Ring.” The less said about that the better.
The rest of the album is, however, excellent and more than worth having to push fast-forward twice.
[Brendan Buhler wrote this to prove he likes some living musicians]