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North [Bonus DVD] [Deutsche Grammophon]

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Editorial Reviews

Barnes & Noble - David Sprague
Elvis Costello has always marched to the beat of his own drummer -- and on this outing, that percussionist is hitting the skins with a jazzy touch and a feathery brush. It'd be easy to pin that stylistic shift on Costello's recent romantic linking with jazz singer Diana Krall, but from 1981's Almost Blue to his 1996 collaboration with Burt Bacharach, Painted from Memory, Costello's catalogue is peppered with conceptual experiments. North, which teams the singer with longtime partner Steve Nieve the only accompanist on the lovely "You Turned to Me" and a wide array of jazz reedmen, is orchestrated in the mode of a classic Nat King Cole disc, unfailingly sweet but not ...
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Editorial Reviews

Barnes & Noble - David Sprague
Elvis Costello has always marched to the beat of his own drummer -- and on this outing, that percussionist is hitting the skins with a jazzy touch and a feathery brush. It'd be easy to pin that stylistic shift on Costello's recent romantic linking with jazz singer Diana Krall, but from 1981's Almost Blue to his 1996 collaboration with Burt Bacharach, Painted from Memory, Costello's catalogue is peppered with conceptual experiments. North, which teams the singer with longtime partner Steve Nieve the only accompanist on the lovely "You Turned to Me" and a wide array of jazz reedmen, is orchestrated in the mode of a classic Nat King Cole disc, unfailingly sweet but not sticky enough to be cloying. At its onset, the disc threatens to swamp the listener in blue notes and blue moods, thanks to a passel of tunes that seem to refer, however indirectly, to the breakup of Costello's marriage to onetime Pogue Cait O'Riordan. Those dusky tunes -- particularly "Someone Took the Words Away," which features a smoky alto sax solo from Lee Konitz -- give way to glimmers of emotional sunlight at the disc's midway point. The light bounce of "When It Sings" finds Costello treading as close as he's ever come to the utterly guileless, a state that suits the perpetual cynic surprisingly well. Likewise, "Let Me Tell You About Her," with its flugelhorn-daubed melody, burbles with the excitement of new love -- albeit with a healthy dose of that patented Declan wordplay. Think of it as the calm after the storm kicked up by When I Was Cruel.
All Music Guide - Stephen Thomas Erlewine
North, Elvis Costello's 20th album of new material, follows the deliberately classicist When I Was Cruel by a mere year, but it feels more the sequel to 1998's Burt Bacharach collaboration, Painted From Memory, or even 1993's roundly ignored classical pop experiment, The Juliet Letters. Costello has abandoned clanging guitars and drums of Cruel -- abandoned rock & roll, really -- to return to a set of classically influenced songs, all "composed, arranged and conducted" by the man himself on The Juliet Letters, he was merely the composer and voice. The songs on North are pitched halfway between traditional torch ballads and arty contemporary Broadway writers such as Stephen Sondheim. This isn't so much a shift in direction after When I Was Cruel as much as it is an extension of the Bacharach album in this context, Cruel seems like the aberration, but it's also a reflection of Costello's new love for Canadian jazz singer Diana Krall. It's not just that North is somewhat of a song cycle, starting with the despair of a failed relationship and ending with the hope of a new love, but that it's somewhat written in the style of Krall's music: self-consciously sophisticated and slightly jazzy. Ultimately, North is not jazz-pop; it's classical pop, with Costello more interested in the structure, arrangement, and words of the song rather than mere catchiness. It's a very writerly album, in regards to both the music and lyrics. Consequently, it takes a bit of effort to get into the album, since it purposefully lacks hooks and songs as immediate or tuneful as those on Painted From Memory or "Jacksons, Monk and Rowe" from The Juliet Letters. This is not a flaw, per se -- it's simply what the album is, a collection of subtle songs performed with an elegant understatement. Unlike The Juliet Letters, North never feels like an exercise, nor does it feel like Costello has something to prove. It's a specific, personal album with serious ambitions that it fulfills. If the album ultimately winds up being something to listen to on occasion rather than a record to spin repeatedly, that doesn't make Costello's achievement with this song cycle any less admirable. [North was initially released with a bonus DVD containing three performances, all shot on a rather ridiculous soundstage with a rustic tree that spills over to a weathered upright piano that also sports weeds running across the keyboard. Costello plunks out three tunes on this slightly out-of-tune instrument, most notably "North," which didn't make it onto the album -- possibly because it was catchier than the rest of the record, which would then draw more attention to the record's deliberate lack of tunes. It's nice to have, and it's also available through a rather cumbersome promotional download only available if you have the PIN number included with the CD. But, really, the DVD is not something even die-hard Costello fans would watch often.]
New York Times - Jon Pareles
While the words aspire to transparency, the music grows complex, as if Mr. Costello soaked up as many convolutions as he could from his 1998 collaboration with Burt Bacharach, "Painted From Memory" (Mercury), then set out to bend and fold them further. He sounds as if he has been studying Cole Porter, Randy Newman, Paul Simon, Stephen Sondheim, Chopin and Schubert, too.

While the words aspire to transparency, the music grows complex, as if Mr. Costello soaked up as many convolutions as he could from his 1998 collaboration with Burt Bacharach, "Painted From Memory" (Mercury), then set out to bend and fold them further. He sounds as if he has been studying Cole Porter, Randy Newman, Paul Simon, Stephen Sondheim, Chopin and Schubert, too.
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Product Details

  • Release Date: 9/23/2003
  • Label: Deutsche Grammophon
  • UPC: 602498091623
  • Catalog Number: 000099610

Album Credits

Performance Credits
Elvis Costello Primary Artist, Guitar, Piano, Conductor
Peter Erskine Drums
Michael Formanek Bass
Lee Konitz Alto Saxophone, Soloist
Lew Soloff Flugelhorn
Steve Nieve Piano, Celeste, Electric Piano, Pianette
Bob Carlisle French Horn
Bill Ware Vibes
Diane Barere Celli
Elena Barere Violin, Leader
Ian Belton Violin
Paul Cassidy Viola
Karen Dreyfus Viola
Crystal Garner Viola
Joyce Hammann Violin
Conrad Herwig Tenor Trombone
Regis Iandiorio Violin
Jeanne LeBlanc Celli
Ann Leathers Violin
Richard Locker Celli
John Moses Clarinet
Jan Mullen Violin
Paul Peabody Violin
Sue Pray Viola
Roger Rosenberg Bass Clarinet
Bobby Routch French Horn
Pamela Sklar Alto Flute
Andy Snitzer Tenor Saxophone
Richard Sortomme Violin
Marti Sweet Violin
Jacqueline Thomas Cello
Ellen Westerman Celli
Rebecca Young Viola
Frederick Zlotkin Celli
Cenovia Cummins Violin
Avril Brown Violin
Jacqui Danilow Bass
Carol Webb Violin
Maxine Roach Viola
Sarah Adams Viola
Maura Giannini Violin
Yuri Vodovoz Violin
Dave Mann Alto Saxophone
Katherine LiVolsi Stern Violin
Yana Goichman Violin
Laura McGinnis Violin
Peter Winograd Violin
Cecelia Hobbs Gardner Violin
Gill Taylor Voices
Timothy Cobb Bass
Andrew Haveron Violin
Jonathan Dinklage Violin
Dave Taylor Bass Trombone
Stacey Shames Harpolek
Bob Carlisle French Horn
Brad Jones Bass
Technical Credits
Elvis Costello Arranger, Composer, Producer, String Arrangements
Steve Nieve Arranger
Kevin Killen Producer, Engineer
Bob Ludwig Mastering
Katharine Edmonds Copy
Peter Doris Engineer
Bill Moss Engineer
Jon Bailey Engineer
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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4.5
( 8 )
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Sort by: Showing all of 8 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted October 1, 2010

    NORTH toward Heaven

    Elvis Costello is a brilliant composer who stands right among the greats of all time i.e, Schubert, Mozart, Rogers & Hammerstein, Cole Porter. This record is yet another natural step forward in the catalogue. The record is perfect, as all have been. It's beauty is raw and simple. This is the one that will win your parents over.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 1, 2010

    A successful journey North

    A dramatic departure from Costello's usual style, North is nonetheless a rewarding journey, carrying the listener to a moody, jazz-tinged world that is a perfect soundtrack for fall. The slow pace and spare musical backing of the songs makes them all the more emotionally compelling. Lyrically, it will come as a surprise to those who are used to hearing more acid-tongued takes on "love" from an artist who always shunned sentiment. Twenty years ago, Costello couldn't have written this album, nor could most of his audience have appreciated it. Today, I believe they will. The song writing is consistent, with several standouts, including When Did I Stop Dreaming?, Fallen, and the exquisite Still, perhaps one of the greatest songs Costello has ever written, and certainly the most romantic. Many years ago, critics likened Elvis to "Buddy Holly on Acid." With the release of North, his most intimate and mature work to date, will he come to be regarded as the "Frank Sinatra of New Wave?" Only time will tell.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 1, 2010

    Keeping it solid.

    A fantastic record for Elvis Costello. He never fails to make, not just excellent songs, but excellent collections. It takes a good songwriter/musician to make a good song, but it takes a superb songwrtier/musician to make a good record as a whole.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 1, 2010

    Elvis Costello's North goes South.

    Elvis has put together a collection that was difficult to get through without a bottle of No-doze at your side. On a somewhat positive note, Still is the one song on the cd that has been replaying itself in my mind. I would have to say that North was Mr. Costello's Brilliant Mistake.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 1, 2010

    Walking in Elvis's shoes

    To read the lyrics alone, it is like a story we have all lived through. Then put Elvis's music and voice with it. A man who has lost love and then found a one true love, after such a great loss. Absolutley profound. Elvis is signing from his heart and Steve is playing Elvis's soul. This record was an amazing journey walking in one man's shoes. Shoes that are all too comfortable and known to all of us. Truely one of his best works and enlightening to finally know the man we call Elvis Costello.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 1, 2010

    ELVIS IS KING!

    "North" didn't hit home with me until I listened to it a few times and then watched the DVD that comes with it. I could then tell that Elvis is giving an honest and personal song to each of us. The common saying is that this album sounds like one long song. What I think you have to do with this album is realize he's not trying to make a "My Aim Is True" album, he is trying to be honest, personal and beautiful. This is what he does. If it's not the beautiful orchestration, the warm piano tones, the brilliant lyrics, then it's Elvis' amazing voice singing perfect, thought out melodies into your ears. This album is slowly creeping into my all time top 5 Elvis Costello albums. ELVIS IS KING!

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 1, 2010

    EXCELLENT

    Once again, Elvis has proven that he can change musical styles and master them. It takes a few listens, like all his work, but it was worth the wait. I walk around all day humming these beautiful, simple, and haunting melodies.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 1, 2010

    Mmmm good

    This is not critic rock. People say Costello's style has faded and the only reason why the critics praise him still is because he looks like the critics and they love the representation. Well, I'm no professional critic and I'm only 16, so I don't think I enjoy Costello because of his looks. Each time I play an Elvis Costello CD, it's always for a mood. When I'm nostalgic, I throw the "My Aim is True" double disk on. Happy: I clean off the record player for an "Armed Forces" session. All around good: "When I Was Cruel". And now, I have a CD for the times when Elton John can't fill the voids. "North" is the best we could ask from Costello. He's given us so many great sounds in the past, that to say "Oh man, Elvis lost his edge" or "Jesus, why is this so emo?" is to not even be a true Costello fan. If you want the Costello that he is now, after his heart wrenching break-up with his fiancee, buy "North". Going through a rough time? Buy "North" and Selby's book "Waiting Period". If you want music, buy "North"...it's that simple.

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