Ever since he disappeared from the Chris Isaak band I've been periodically looking up James Calvin Wilsey in the vain hope that he'd make the journey back from the Where Are They Now file. Well, he's back, minus the Calvin, having spent the last decade or so watching Spaghetti Westerns and channeling Hank Marvin, it would seem.
Calvin or no it's definitely the same Wilsey, the vibe is immaculately cool right down to the hilarious cover art (intentionally, I think - I'm assuming there's at least an element of tongue in cheek, but you never know), and the Stratocaster sounds as dreamy as ever but --- well, the overall package underwhelms. That said, my expectations were pretty high. Being instrumental, the songs lack the structure that vocals impose on them, and are short of melody - they play more like Ennio Morricone soundtrack pieces than integrated songs in their own right, requiring something (a western visual, a smouldering Isaak vocal or something) to complete the picture. It feels like El Dorado has been recorded with the collateral intention of garnering some film soundtrack work from Robert Rodriguez as opposed to standing on its own as a pop record.
And nor has Wilsey's style developed a great deal in the last few years - other than hardening the Eddy/Marvin influences and amping up the production values, a number of the guitar lines could have come directly from Silvertone. There are no knockout tracks: there's nothing to compare to a Wicked Game or a Can't Do A Thing To Stop Me. Instead - and don't get me wrong this is plenty enough to make it worth buying - the album simply sets up a Sergio Leone vibe and sticks with it.
It's undoubtedly good to have Wilsey back, and El Dorado is certainly a creditable and listenable album, but - well, I wonder whether a collaboration with the Stockton Crooner wouldn't be out of the question for the next outting?