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Soul of rock

Kate PetersSpecial to the DailyVail, CO Colorado
Special to the Daily/Zach Mahone
ALL |

BEAVER CREEK, Colorado – The legend behind the hit “Wicked Game” is back for a second performance at the Vilar Center, and this time, he is bringing his old friends Johnny, Roy and Elvis. In Beaver Creek on Tuesday, Chris Isaak will perform songs from his latest album, “Beyond the Sun,” a tribute to the iconic Memphis, Tenn., Sun Studios. With a style that is often compared to that of Elvis Presley, Johnny Cash and Roy Orbison, Isaak places his own spin on “Can’t Help Falling in Love,” “Great Balls of Fire,” “Ring of Fire,” “It’s Now or Never” and other tribute songs that echo from the walls of Sun Studios. “To stand in the very spot where an 18-year-old Elvis Presley walked in with a $12 guitar to record his very first song … it’s indescribable,” Isaak said. “I did this because I love this music – that’s the entire reason. … These guys discovered this music for us, and we had to rediscover it.” Sun Records is credited with elevating killer guitar licks, smooth rhythm and the infusion of country music with R&B to lay the foundation for late 20th century rock ‘n’ roll. When the catchy yet unpredictable sounds of rockabilly first emerged, it was Sun Records that supported the evolution of this genre and captured the creativity behind producing its early sounds. Sun Records’ impact from that moment forward was significant, inspiring the next wave of great music legends of the time, including The Beatles. Taking risksFor Isaak, recording “Beyond the Sun” needed to extend beyond a typical tribute album effort. While he has taken cues from rock’s legends for more than a quarter of a century, this project focused on taking risks and going beyond the boundaries of what was safe and familiar. “I’ve been told that one of the most stunning moments in my album occurs at the end of ‘It’s Now or Never,'” Isaak said. “In the original, Elvis hits a note worthy of an artist dubbed ‘The King.’ I don’t think that listeners of my album think I can’t hit it in my rendition, but rather, that I won’t, as I pause before powering up to hit the note in full force. When you do a song such as that one, you can’t leave out the guns … and so I didn’t. I try to take those elements of surprise and anticipation to the stage and intend to give my live listeners that same experience of something unexpected.”If you’re planning to attend Isaak’s Tuesday concert, be prepared for an emotional journey back to the 1950s. While Isaak’s songs, by his admission, won’t reference “goin’ to the bop,” his style and approach exceed expectations and have audiences looking at music in a new way, much like the early listeners of rock and rockabilly considered the music new and ultimately fell in love with the genre. Adding to his set list of rock ‘n’ roll classics, Isaak will perform his original hits “Wicked Game,” “Baby Did a Bad, Bad Thing,” “Somebody’s Crying” and “San Francisco Days.” He’ll also add brand-new original numbers penned in Sun Studios as he drew inspiration from the Sun greats. “It was a ball making this record, and now it’s a ball playing it live,” Isaak said. “You should see the look on people’s faces when we kick into Johnny Cash’s ‘Ring of Fire’ in the middle of the set.” Kate Peters is a freelance writer and avid concert-goer based in Denver. Email comments about this story to cschnell@vaildaily.com.


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