On Chris Isaak’s latest record the country rock singer is a one-man Million Dollar Quartet. “Beyond the Sun” finds the pompadoured Isaak breathing new life into the music of Sun Records superstars -- Elvis Presley, Jerry Lee Lewis, Carl Perkins and Johnny Cash.
While each track is true to the original arrangements, Isaak leaves his personal mark on the 14-track collection of classic covers with pristine and polished vocal tones.
Not a note is overplayed, there are no distortions, the band doesn’t even get loud, yet there’s an incredible sense of power and a vibe of confidence that Isaak projects on the music with his voice and guitar work. Isaak’s sonic perfectionism really pays off on the Elvis material that dominates the record. In all there are seven tracks here that were originally recorded by Presley, but Isaak becomes absolutely possessed by the King when he sings the ballad “Can’t Help Falling in Love.”
Isaak is most often compared in style and vocal range to Roy Orbison, but this disc only features a single Orbison track, “So Long I’m Gone.” It’s a slightly disappointing choice because that tune isn’t the one that shows off Isaak’s impressive falsetto.
Still, Isaak is clearly serious about this album as a faithful re-creation, but that doesn’t mean he’s not having his own fun. His guitar work is fat and swings on Carl Perkins’ bad boy ode “Dixie Fried.” And for Jerry Lee’s piano pounder “Great Balls of Fire,’’ Chris sounds like he’s on the hot seat when he wails: “You shake my nerves and you rattle my brain, too much love drives a man insane.”
While the mariachi horns on Johnny Cash’s “Ring of Fire’’ are an acquired taste, Isaak nicely plumbs the bottom of his tenor to conjure Johnny’s baritone on a sterling version of “I Walk the Line.”
IN one of the most frantic songs of the year singer Patrick Stump, the Fall Out Boy singer gone solo, combines sharp hand claps and synthesizer wheezes to create the mutant mutt he calls soul punk. In the catchy “Explode,” the melody surges from calm to storm, and the tune has a jittery staccato beat as it tells the tale of a bomb squad specialist who just can’t seem to remember whether he should cut the red or the green wire. With vocals that sound as if Michael Jackson were having an anxiety attack, Stump sings the chorus line “Clap if you got a ticket to the end of the world.” It’s easy to follow Stump’s instructions and give him a standing ovation for this.