Chris Isaak’s career enjoys second life

Nearly two decades after his biggest hit, singer-actor tours in support of live CD

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o What: Chris Isaak, in concert.

o When: 7 p.m. Aug. 14.

o Where: Oregon Zoo, 4001 S.W. Canyon Road, Portland.

o Cost: $37.50 at the gate through Ticketmaster, 800-745-3000 or http://ticketmaster.com.

o Information: 503-226-1561 or http://oregonzoo.org/Concerts.

Chris Isaak put out a studio CD, “Mr. Lucky,” last summer. He admits he hasn’t had much luck with retail sales of the album.

But “Mr. Lucky” is not necessarily dead in the water. Isaak’s biggest hit, the song “Wicked Game” from the 1989 album “Heart Shaped World,” demonstrates that an album can get a second life.

“The thing came out on our record and nobody noticed it,” Isaak said of “Wicked Game.” “A couple of years later it was in a movie (David Lynch’s ‘Wild At Heart’) and it was a hit. So I never give up. I know one rule of thumb is make good records. Do good shows, and your audience will notice and they will find you. And I feel real proud of that ‘Mr. Lucky’ album. I think we had a lot of good songs on there.”

o What: Chris Isaak, in concert.

o When: 7 p.m. Aug. 14.

o Where: Oregon Zoo, 4001 S.W. Canyon Road, Portland.

o Cost: $37.50 at the gate through Ticketmaster, 800-745-3000 or http://ticketmaster.com.

o Information: 503-226-1561 or http://oregonzoo.org/Concerts.

Without knowing Isaak’s views on “Mr. Lucky,” it would be easy to assume he had put the 2009 album in the rearview mirror and moved on. In June he released a concert CD, “Live At The Fillmore.” He is now actively promoting that release with a summer tour and a stop on the “Tonight Show.”

He joked that he had lost count of the number of times he had performed on the “Tonight Show.” He first appeared back when Johnny Carson was the show’s host.

Isaak has been in show business longer than it might seem. Now 54, he released his first album, “Silvertone,” in 1984. He still hadn’t connected commercially after the release of “Heart Shaped World.”

Then in 1991, a radio station music director in Atlanta saw “Wild At Heart” and was struck when he heard “Wicked Game” in the film. He put the moody ballad into rotation. Soon, as other stations followed suit, the song became a top 10 hit.

Since then, Isaak has seen songs “Baby Did A Bad Bad Thing” (which was featured in the movie “Eyes Wide Shut”) and “Somebody’s Crying” (which was used by VH-1) also cross over to radio, albeit with more modest success than “Wicked Game.”

Isaak can credit his work in television, as much as his music, for helping him sustain what is a very viable music career.

In 2001, he launched “The Chris Isaak Show” on the Showtime cable channel. It featured Isaak and his band at the time (bassist Rowland Salley, drummer Kenney Dale Johnson and guitarist Hershel Yatovitz) portraying themselves and the lives they lead as professional touring musicians.

The series was well received and continued through 2004. Isaak has also had roles in several high-profile movies, including “Married to the Mob,” “Silence of the Lambs,” “That Thing You Do!” and “A Dirty Shame,” as well as the HBO cable series, “From the Earth to the Moon.”

He plans to continue to pursue acting work, depending on what his schedule allows.

“I love acting and I love doing TV,” he said. “This past year, somebody offered me a full-time role on another TV show. I turned one down because it would have meant I would have had no time to tour. The number one thing for me is to play and make music. So I turned that down. But I’m always looking to do something, and films, if they come at the right time, or TV, as long as I don’t have to give up my guitar playing or riding around with my ne’er-do-well friends (his band and road crew) on the bus.”

Music is clearly front and center for Isaak now, as he tours into September in support of the 17-song “Live at the Fillmore” album.

Throughout his career Isaak has been famous for the quality of his concerts and the easy-going humor he displays on stage, along with his singing talent. That makes it rather surprising he hasn’t released a live album until now.

Isaak wasn’t exactly focused on putting out the CD until others in his camp started talking up the idea.

“I kind of forgot about it,” Isaak said of the Fillmore recording, which was done at the end of a tour in 2008. “A month or a couple of months later my engineer had listened to the tapes and he called my manager all excited. My manager then called me all excited, and I said ‘OK, great. Let’s hear it.’”

He was not sure what to expect.

“It was one of the only times I ever heard a recording that sounds like a live show,” he said. “I think the guys were playing great. We had been at the end of a long tour. They were in a good attitude, and it comes across. You can just tell people are having fun on that record.”