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Koch Vision presents
Soundstage Presents Chris Isaak (2004)

"What a wicked thing to do
to let me dream of you..."

- lyric from Wicked Game

Review By: Rich Rosell  
Published: August 25, 2005

Stars: Chris Isaak
Other Stars: Hershel Yatovitz, Rowland Salley, Kenny Johnson, Brett Tuggle, Lenny Castro, Raul Malo
Director: Joe Thomas

Manufacturer: Liberty Multimedia
MPAA Rating: Not Rated for (nothing objectionable)
Run Time: 46m:47s
Release Date: August 09, 2005
UPC: 741952625193
Genre: music

Image Transfer
Audio Transfer
A- A-AB B-

DVD Review

Over the years, Chris Isaak has channeled all sorts of ghosts from the past (part country, part big band, part Buddy Holly, part Everly Brothers), percolating it all into a strange mixture of sophisticated pop, dominated by his trademark soft-spoken twangy voice that seems to get all the women semi-swoony. Carving out a few substantial hits along the way (most notably Wicked Game), Isaak's staying power isn't necessarily in his chart success, but in the way he projects his casual cool vibe, even when he's decked in a hideously bright pink suit as he is in this episode of Public Television's Soundstage live concert series.

It really takes some kind of cool to wear that suit.

Recorded in Chicago, Soundstage Presents Chris Isaak is the same 47-minute version that was broadcast on television, with Isaak and the band stepping effortlessly through 11 tunes, sprinkling in the expected familiar material between some wonderfully dry humor for his between song patter. Isaak mocks what he calls his "friendliness in a pink suit," as well as doing a small hunk on the importance of public television and how he supports it, before it ends up being just a self-effacing joke as he confesses he never actually donated, but has always meant to.

There isn't a lot of gratuitous showboating in Isaak's set, as he and the band refrain from the typical live theatrics and just play the music. Solos are kept to a minimum, and the presentation moves along rather quickly, with each song staying very close to the studio versions. The closest they come to really crossing that line is during the show closer, Super Magic 2000, where the band gets to stretch out a bit, instrumentally, but even that is played fairly close to the bone.

At one point Isaak talks about looking for people in the audience who are "alone, single and desperate," during the lead-in to Baby Did a Bad, Bad Thing, though it is really a bit of tongue-in-cheek humor more than a real plea. Isaak plays the crooning troubadour role well, extolling some kind of additively twangy romanticism that crosses a wide age range, with hip, well-crafted music that seems like it's heart was pulled out of the past.

Set List:

American Boy
Wicked Game
Heart Shaped World
Go Walking Down There
Baby Did a Bad, Bad Thing
Somebody's Crying
One Day
San Francisco Days
Forever Blue
Super Magic 2000

Rating for Style: A-
Rating for Substance: A-


Image Transfer

Aspect Ratio1.66:1 - Widescreen
Original Aspect Ratioyes

Image Transfer Review: The back cover touts this as being in a 4x3 aspect ratio, though it isn't; instead, it's presented in 1.66:1 nonanamorphic widescreen. It was captured in hi-def, and as with the other titles in the Soundstage series, it is a real beauty. The stage lighting is fairly subdued, but the depth and clarity of all of the backing musicians is quite detailed, with none of the usual blockiness or smearing seen on a lot of concert discs. The bright pink of Isaak's suit—especially when the background lighting is shadowy—really leaps off the screen.

Image Transfer Grade: A


Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access
DS 2.0Englishyes
Dolby Digital

Audio Transfer Review: There are two audio choices, available in either Dolby Digital 5.1 or 2.0 surround. The 5.1 mix isn't quite as full-bodied or expansive as I would have hoped, relegated to largely to the front channels, with minimal use of the rears. High ends come across nicely, and the bottom end is moderately punchy. It's a strong, clean transfer, but without any remarkably distinctive moments of separation to elevate it to extraordinary status. The 2.0 mix compresses things a bit more, and feels more like average television broadcast quality.

Audio Transfer Grade: B


Disc Extras

Static menu with music
Scene Access with 11 cues and remote access
Music/Song Access with 11 cues and remote access
Cast and Crew Biographies
Packaging: Amaray
Picture Disc
1 Disc
1-Sided disc(s)
Layers: single

Extra Extras:
  1. Bonus Tracks
  2. Photo Gallery
  3. Backstage Pass
Extras Review: Extras include text bios of the band, a discography and an 18-image photo gallery. The Backstage Pass is a generic text-based look at the production elements used on Soundstage, such as cameras, audio, and even the jib.

There are also five bonus tracks, live performances from other Soundstage shows, all presented in Dolby Digital 5.1 surround, to boot. Raul Malo gets two tracks, Let's Not Say Goodnight Anymore and Let It Be Me (for a total of 08m:48s); Lyle Lovett does a wonderful version of That's Right (You're Not From Texas) (05m:25s); Randy Newman waxes on the state of the Union in Political Science (02m:24s); and Michael McDonald, along with Ashford & Simpson, Patrick Simmons, and Tom Johnston, cuts loose with a full-bodied rendition of Takin' It to the Streets (05m:43s).

The disc is cut into 11 chapters.

Extras Grade: B-


Final Comments

The only real beef I have with this disc is that it's just 47 minutes long. A great set from Isaak, captured in a razor sharp high-definition transfer that really looks beautiful.


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