North

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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.
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Product Details

  • Release Date: 9/23/2003
  • Label: Deutsche Grammophon
  • UPC: 602498091630
  • Catalog Number: 000099902

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
The 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
Cecelia Hobbs Gardner Strings, Violin
Timothy Cobb Bass, Strings
Andrew Haveron Violin, Group Member
Jonathan Dinklage 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
Bob Ludwig Mastering
Peter Doris Engineer
Paul Bishow Executive Producer
Jon Bailey Engineer
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