Elvis Costello showcases continued talent on new album
Published: Thursday, November 4, 2010
Updated: Thursday, November 4, 2010 00:11
Elvis Costello is a man of many faces. Gaining success as a punk act in the mid-70s, Costello joined Oliver's Army and made the immediate transition into New Wave only a few years later. The pattern continued, with Costello experimenting in every style of music he could get his hands on.
But in the midst of all this genre-hopping, one thing remains the same for Costello: his talent is undeniable.
In fact, Costello has never released a bad album in his entire music career. Some of his works surpassed expectations, others remained relatively low-key, but nothing he released was ever poorly done. His latest record, "National Ransom," is no exception.
Released Nov. 2, the 17-track album integrates elements of blues, jazz, punk, bluegrass and folk that would otherwise be incompatible.
The first (and title) track is vintage Costello – a pub-rock beat dripping with his infamous, bitterly brilliant lyrics. Taking a stab at Wall Street and reverting back to his working-class roots, Costello questions, "Did you find out just how to cheat?/The elite bleat, their obsolete/But what are your prospects?"
During the song, "Church Underground," the borderline-punk Costello makes a guest appearance, and the bass trumpet on "Stations of the Cross" makes the piece impossible to ignore. "You Hung the Moon" and "All These Strangers" are poignant ballads that reflect genuine thought and investment, and are not just simple fillers.
On "My Lovely Jezebel," Costello takes an Elmore James-esque turn, intermingling his own thick bluesy vocals with Leon Russell's honky-tonk piano playing. The fusion of opposing genres meshes together rather effortlessly, showcasing Costello's wide vocal range combined with Russell's talent for brilliant piano playing.
Costello's gift is an innate harmonic sense, which allows him to create musical hybrids that only he could prospectively view through his Buddy Holly glasses. He fully embraces this gift on "Jezebel," and the swing-era result may be the record's finest track.
This most recent album isn't Costello's best – that would have to be 1977's "My Aim is True" – but it isn't his worst, either. He continues evolving and reinventing with each new release, and a year of hard work paid off with a solid and respectable collection of songs.
"National Ransom" is a necessary addition to every Costello fan's collection. Elvis isn't looking to be inducted into the rotation of classic rock radio. He's in it for the music – and he always has been. What makes him unique is the fact that the music is good. Really good. Pump it up.