Juliet Letters [Expanded]

The Juliet Letters [Expanded]

by Elvis Costello, The Brodsky Quartet

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Looking back on it, it's remarkable that Warner didn't sue Elvis Costello for making deliberately noncommercial, non-representative records, the way Geffen did with Neil Young in the '80s. After all, it's not just that he made a record as anti-pop as Mighty Like a Rose, it's that he followed it with a full-fledged classical album, …  See more details below


Looking back on it, it's remarkable that Warner didn't sue Elvis Costello for making deliberately noncommercial, non-representative records, the way Geffen did with Neil Young in the '80s. After all, it's not just that he made a record as anti-pop as Mighty Like a Rose, it's that he followed it with a full-fledged classical album, The Juliet Letters -- "a song sequence for string quartet and voice," recorded with the Brodsky Quartet. It's inspired by a Verona professor who responded to letters addressed to Juliet, of Romeo and Juliet fame, too. Given this history, it's little wonder that the record didn't storm the charts, but it is remarkable that Warner, even with their reputation for being an artist's label, decided to release it, since this just doesn't fit anywhere -- not within pop (especially in the grunge-saturated 1993) and not within classical, either. Of course, that's precisely what's interesting about the record, and if interesting didn't signify any rewards with Mighty, it does here. This is a distinctive, unusual affair that, at its best, effectively marries chamber music with Beatlesque art pop. And there are a number of moments that work remarkably well on the record, such as "I Almost Had a Weakness" and "Jacksons, Monk and Rowe." True, these are the songs closest to straight-ahead Costello songs, yet they're still nice, small gems, and even if the rest of the record can be a little arch and awkward, it's not hard to admire what Costello and the Brodskys set out to do. And that's the problem with the record -- it's easy to intellectualize, even appreciate, what it intends to be, but it's never compelling enough to return to. More experiment than effective, then. [The Juliet Letters was the last of Elvis Costello's albums from 1977 to 1996 to receive an expanded double-disc treatment in Rhino's extended reissue campaign, finally appearing on its own in March 2006. Given the unusual collaborative nature of the project, there wasn't as much unreleased music and rarities as there were for other Costello albums, so this second disc winds up as a clearing-house for highlights from Costello's art projects of the '90s. Eight of the 18 tracks date from the Meltdown Festival Elvis curated in 1995; two of these -- "Gigi" and "Deep Dead Blue" -- were originally issued as part of Deep Dead Blue, his EP with guitarist Bill Frisell, and there is one other song from that set, "Upon a Veil of Midnight Blue." In addition to these songs from Meltdown, there are the three non-LP songs from the 1993 promotional EP Live at New York Town Hall: Jerome Kern's "They Didn't Believe Me," Tom Waits' "More Than Rain," and Brian Wilson's "God Only Knows." Also included is "She Moved Through the Fair," a Costello-sung traditional folk tune that appeared on the Brodsky Quartet's 1994 album Lament, and another Costello/Brodsky collaboration on "Lost in the Stars," plucked from the 1997 tribute album September Songs: The Music of Kurt Weill, plus three parts of "Fire Suite" that were recorded with the Jazz Passengers and released originally on Roy Nathanson's 2000 LP Fire at Keaton's Bar & Grill. Considering the variety of sources, spanning the better part of the decade, it's not a big surprise that this disc isn't particularly cohesive -- particularly in comparison to its parent disc -- but there's a good batch of interesting music here. Not always good -- the version of "God Only Knows" is awkward, for instance -- but even the stumbles are worthwhile listening for those who appreciate The Juliet Letters, and the best of this, like "Fire Suite," is quietly sublime.]

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Product Details

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Disc 1

  1. Deliver us
  2. For Other Eyes
  3. Swine
  4. Expert Rites
  5. Dead Letter
  6. I Almost Had A Weakness
  7. Why?
  8. Who Do You Think You Are?
  9. Taking My Life in Your Hands
  10. This Offer is Unrepeatable
  11. Dear Sweet Filthy World
  12. The Letter Home
  13. Jacksons, Monk and Rowe
  14. This Sad Burlesque
  15. Romeo's Seance
  16. I Thought I'd Write to Juliet
  17. Last Post
  18. The First to Leave
  19. Damnation's Cellar
  20. The Birds Will Still Be Singing

Disc 2

  1. She Moved through the Fair, folk song
  2. Pills and Soap, song
  3. King of the Unknown Sea, song
  4. Skeleton, song
  5. More Than Rain, song
  6. God Only Knows
  7. They Didn't Believe Me, song (from the musical play by S. Jones "The Gi
  8. O Mistress Mine  - John Harle
  9. Come Away, Death, song  - John Harle
  10. Put Away Forbidden Playthings, song for voice & viol consort
  11. Can she excuse my wrongs, for 4 voices & lute (First Book of Songs)  -  Composers Ensemble
  12. Fire Suite 1  - Roy Nathanson
  13. Fire Suite 3  - Roy Nathanson
  14. Fire Suite Reprise  - Roy Nathanson
  15. Gigi, song (from "Gigi ")  - Bill Frisell
  16. Deep Dead Blue, song  - Bill Frisell
  17. Upon A Veil of Midnight Blue, song
  18. Lost in the Stars, song for voice & piano (from "Lost in the Stars") [*

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Album Credits

Performance Credits

Elvis Costello   Primary Artist,Vocals
Brodsky Quartet   Primary Artist,String Quartet
Marc Ribot   Guitar
Ned Rothenberg   Alto Saxophone
Bill Ware   Vibes
Roy Babbington   Double Bass
Ian Belton   Violin
Paul Cassidy   Viola
Cyrus Chestnut   Piano
Mitch Dalton   Guitar
Bill Frisell   Guitar
Erik Friedlander   Cello
Sam Furnace   Baritone Saxophone
Steve Lodder   Organ,Keyboards
Roy Nathanson   Alto Saxophone
Ben Perowsky   Drums
E.J. Rodriguez   Conga,Drums
Jay Rodriguez   Tenor Saxophone
Michael E. Thomas   Violin
Mitchell Dalton   Guitar
John Harle   Keyboards,Saxophone
John Harle Band   Band
Punishing Kiss Band   Band
Brad Jones   Bass

Technical Credits

John Dowland   Lyricist
Elvis Costello   Composer,Lyricist,Producer,Liner Notes
Tom Waits   Lyricist
Jerome Kern   Composer
Greg Allen   Art Direction
Bob Appel   Producer
Ian Belton   Composer,Lyricist
Brodsky Quartet   Composer,Producer
Paul Cassidy   Arranger,Composer,Lyricist
Bill Frisell   Arranger,Composer
Kevin Killen   Producer,Engineer,Engineering
Alan Jay Lerner   Lyricist
Eric Lijestrand   Engineer
Roger Moutenot   Engineer
Roy Nathanson   Composer
Mike Ross-Trevor   Engineer
Andrew Sandoval   Reissue Producer
Jacqueline Thomas   Lyricist
Hal Willner   Producer
Eric Liljestrand   Engineer
Steve Averill   Art Direction
Ciaran Byrne   Vocal Engineer
Paul Bateman   Producer
William Shakespeare   Text
Michael Thomas   Composer
Traditional   Composer
Val Jennings   Reissue Producer
Ginger Dettman   Project Accounting
David Ponak   Licensing
Neil Hutchinson   Engineer
Michael E. Thomas   Arranger,Lyricist
Gary Stewart   Reissue Producer
Anderson   Lyricist
John Harle   Producer
Marina P. Thomas   Lyricist
Michael Thomas   Lyricist
Reynolds   Lyricist
Jacqueline Thomas   Composer

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