North

North

4.0 1
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 collaborationSee more details below

Overview

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.

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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.

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Product Details

Release Date:
11/06/2003
Label:
Universal Int'l
UPC:
0602498091654
catalogNumber:
9809165
Rank:
142455

Tracks

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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
Diane Barere   Strings,Cello,Celli
Elena Barere   Violin,Leader
Ian Belton   Violin,Group Member
Brodsky Quartet   Musician
Paul Cassidy   Viola,Group Member
Karen Dreyfus   Strings,Viola
Crystal Garner   Strings,Viola
Joyce Hammann   Strings,Violin
Conrad Herwig   Tenor Trombone
Regis Iandiorio   Violin
Jeanne LeBlanc   Strings,Cello,Celli
Ann Leathers   Strings,Violin
Richard Locker   Strings,Cello,Celli
John Moses   Clarinet
Jan Mullen   Strings,Violin
Paul Peabody   Strings,Violin
Sue Pray   Strings,Viola
Roger Rosenberg   Bass Clarinet
Bobby Routch   French Horn
Pamela Sklar   Alto Flute
Andy Snitzer   Tenor Saxophone
Richard Sortomme   Strings,Violin
Marti Sweet   Strings,Violin
Dave Taylor   Bass
Jacqueline Thomas   Cello,Group Member
Ellen Westerman   Strings,Cello,Celli
Rebecca Young   Strings,Viola
Frederick Zlotkin   Strings,Cello,Celli
Cenovia Cummins   Strings,Violin
Avril Brown   Strings,Violin
Jacqui Danilow   Bass,Strings
Carol Webb   Strings,Violin
Maxine Roach   Strings,Viola
Sarah Adams   Strings,Viola
Maura Giannini   Strings,Violin
Yuri Vodovoz   Strings,Violin
Dave Mann   Alto Saxophone
Yana Goichman   Strings,Violin
Peter Winograd   Strings,Violin
Timothy Cobb   Bass,Strings
Andrew Haveron   Violin,Group Member
Jonathan Dinklage   Strings,Violin
Cecilia Hobbs Gardner   Strings,Violin
Stacey Shames   Strings,Harp
Brad Jones   Bass

Technical Credits

Elvis Costello   Arranger,Composer,Producer,String Arrangements,String Conductor
Steve Nieve   Arranger
Kevin Killen   Producer,Engineer
Peter Doris   Engineer
Paul Bishow   Executive Producer
Jon Bailey   Engineer

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