Chris Isaak: Beyond the Sun (Vanguard) 

Chris Isaak was born to make this album, his tribute to the influential confluence of country, blues and rock 'n' roll created during the 1950s and 1960s at the legendary Sun Studio in Memphis, Tenn. Much of his material during his career has been an homage to that era. Here, he tackles many of the original numbers of that time, such as cuts by Elvis Presley, Johnny Cash, Roy Orbison, Carl Perkins and Jerry Lee Lewis. This album—available in single- and double-disc versions—is a no-brainer, and Isaak fans will eat it up.

His readings of classic material, from "Ring of Fire" and "I Forgot to Remember to Forget" (on the first disc), to "I'm Gonna Sit Right Down and Cry" and "Oh, Pretty Woman" (Disc 2), avoid both the traps of slavish copying and cheesy indulgence. Like most of Isaak's music, this album feels timeless and authentic, as if he inhaled the sounds of these songs and exhaled his own interpretations.

Although it's well-sung and well-played—Isaak's great backup players are always unsung heroes—some of it seems superfluous. At the same time, lesser-known cuts such as "Trying to Get to You," "Dixie Fried" and "Miss Pearl" are worth hearing, just because Isaak loves them so and dug them up for our benefit.

Other treats include "Great Balls of Fire," which he makes a little less threatening; "It's Now or Never," which allows him to indulge his fondness for tropical touches; and the just-plain-lovely collision of rockabilly and doo-wop on "She's Not You."

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