Album of the Week:
Elvis Costello "Look Now"
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Long ago Elvis Costello proved to be a brilliant songwriter who could effortlessly shift from rock to ballads, sweet to biting. Through the years he’s dabbled in country, jazz, classical, and even hip-hop on his 2013 collaboration with The Roots. Following a five-year hiatus, and a cancer scare, Costello returns with a crop of songs that rank as standards and among his best material to date.
Look Now delivers Costello’s wickedly smart lyrics, featuring unflinching examinations of marriages in dissolution (“Stripping Paper”), dissipated careerists (“Under Lime”), the collapse of empire (“I Let the Sun Go Down”), and the decrepitude of aging (“Burnt Sugar Is So Bitter”). Costello’s brush with cancer has left him introspective, and in his typical manner, he tackles these topics with aplomb. Despite the fact that his characters are struggling in unhappy circumstances there is something hopeful in the singer’s tone, as if facing dire consequences has awakened his lust to explore life in all its messy vitality.
It’s fitting that Costello is backed by his long-time band The Imposters. They know his timing and their playing supports his unique phrasing and vibrato vocals. Guitars take a back seat to piano, woodwinds, horns, and strings. They follow his lead through lush Bossa Nova flavored pop (“Why Won’t Heaven Help Me?”), sly rocker (“Unwanted Number”), to torch balladry (Photographs Can Lie”). Costello brought two great songwriters into the fold for the album. Carole King co-wrote “Burnt Sugar is So Bitter.) Burt Bacharach also contributed and his influence shines through in sophisticated arrangements.
Rosemary Welsch (Afternoon Mix)