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North [Bonus DVD] [Deutsche Grammophon]

North [Bonus DVD] [Deutsche Grammophon]

4.2 8
by Elvis Costello

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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


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.

Editorial Reviews

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.

Product Details

Release Date:
Deutsche Grammophon


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
Gill Taylor   Voices
Timothy Cobb   Bass
Andrew Haveron   Violin
Jonathan Dinklage   Violin
Dave Taylor   Bass Trombone
Cecilia Hobbs Gardner   Violin
Stacey Shames   Harpolek
Brad Jones   Bass

Technical Credits

Elvis Costello   Arranger,Composer,Producer,String Arrangements
Steve Nieve   Arranger
Kevin Killen   Producer,Engineer
Katharine Edmonds   Copy
Peter Doris   Engineer
Jon Bailey   Engineer
Bill Moss   Engineer

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North 4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 1 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago