Without identifying who it was, Isaak made his mood clear with Forever Blue by including a farewell letter in the liner notes to the lover who had dumped him. Kicking things off with the snaky, almost guttural "Baby Did a Bad Bad Thing," later made a theme song for Stanley Kubrick's Eyes Wide Shut, Isaak lives up to the confused, fractured message in that letter, turning Forever Blue into his own exorcism. On the one hand, he doesn't sound any less impassioned than before, but on the other, those who have criticized him for seeming to concentrate on the surface of his influences rather than the depths would probably find themselves outfoxed here. There's a stronger energy and fiercer edge to the music, as moodily beautiful as ever, to be sure, but cutting just a little more close to the bone, with even the quiet moments -- check the heartbreaking title track -- sounding truly lost and forlorn. Kenney Dale Johnson's drums hit with a harder energy in the louder moments, the more upbeat melodies have that much more of an incongruously jaunty feeling when set against the often-eviscerating lyrics, as directed as much against himself as the lost love in question. Still, the mysterious departed figure is clearly the main target, and songs like "Don't Leave Me on My Own" and "There She Goes" leave little doubt where things are headed, while "Go Walking Down There" practically explodes with bitterness, Isaak's lyrics lashing out against "the happy people" around him. The instrumental range on San Francisco Days carries over here, but with a newer emphasis on rougher edges mixed with quieter deliveries and arrangements -- a seemingly odd balance, but one that punctuates the sheen of Isaak's earlier work with aplomb, as well as forecasting ahead toward Baja Sessions. Erik Jacobsen again is the production ear behind it all, and credit to him for helping make sure those chances get taken.
Forever Blue Review
by Ned Raggett