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My Flame Burns Blue

My Flame Burns Blue

3.0 1
by Elvis Costello
Like a finely cut gem that reveals something different every time it's held at a new angle, Elvis Costello's latest offering is almost impossible to pin down. In part, it's a revisiting of the singer-songwriter's old catalog; in part, a foray into traditional jazz -- not merely the cabaret stylings he's dipped into in the past. Heck, there's even a head-on rush into


Like a finely cut gem that reveals something different every time it's held at a new angle, Elvis Costello's latest offering is almost impossible to pin down. In part, it's a revisiting of the singer-songwriter's old catalog; in part, a foray into traditional jazz -- not merely the cabaret stylings he's dipped into in the past. Heck, there's even a head-on rush into the old-school rock 'n' roll that marked Costello's earliest outings. That last element -- contained in an all-spit, no-polish romp through Dave Bartholomew's jivey "That's How You Got Killed Before" -- is probably My Flame Burns Blue's most immediately pleasurable moment, but there's plenty of reward in the disc's less instantaneous tracks. Take the opening "Hora Decubitus," a Charles Mingus composition that Costello uses as a template for a post-9/11 meditation on the fragility of the human condition. Tweaking the work of a legend like Mingus -- or of Billy Strayhorn, whose "Blood Count" is the basis for the disc's title track -- is a dangerous gambit, but Costello does himself proud by utilizing the proper blend of respect and confidence. Having the backing of the 52-piece Metropole Orkest (a Dutch orchestra that specializes in jazz) doesn't hurt, either. Their presence likewise vivifies Costello's adaptations of his own past works -- notably "Watching the Detectives," which trades the original's menacing reggae groove for a West Side Story–styled sweep, and "Clubland," molded here into a playful cha-cha. Costello completists should note the inclusion of a bonus disc comprising selections from Il Sogno, his 2004 Gershwin-tinged classical suite. Whether burning red-hot or cool blue, Elvis carries the flame in high style.

Editorial Reviews

All Music Guide - Stephen Thomas Erlewine
My Flame Burns Blue is Elvis Costello's fourth record released on the classical label Deutsche Grammophon, and by now it should be clear that just because Elvis releases something on DG, it does not necessarily mean that the album itself is classical. That term may apply to For the Stars, his duet album with opera vocalist Anne Sofie Von Otter, as well as his orchestral piece Il Sogno (which is excerpted on a bonus CD attached to this release), but it doesn't apply to 2003's song cycle North, nor does it apply to My Flame Burns Blue, which is accurately described on his official website as "his first rock 'n' jazz album!" Evidently, Costello reserves his art projects for his albums on Deutsche Grammophon, of which My Flame Burns Blue is clearly one. As he says in his thorough liner notes (preparing those double-disc reissues apparently has unleashed the rock critic within), "this record may explain what I've been doing during the last twelve years when I haven't had an electric guitar in my hands...I've had the opportunity to work with a number of contrasting ensembles, from chamber group and jazz big band to symphony orchestra. Consequently, I had plenty of charts to consider for my concerts with the Metropole Orkest in the summer of 2004. The Metropole are the world's only full-time jazz orchestra with a string section." Such an ensemble is ideal for a restless musician like Costello, who is eager to write in different idioms, or rearrange his old work in new ways, which is precisely what he did at the July 2004 concert at the North Sea Jazz Festival that is now captured on My Flame Burns Blue. He completely reworks "Clubland," which is now woozy and elastic, and "Watching the Detectives," which has been turned into "the style of a 1950s television theme." He expands but doesn't alter both "Almost Blue" and "God Give Me Strength," while reviving the David Bartholome number "That's How You Got Killed Before," which has been a standard in his repertoire since the mid-'80s. This makes for roughly a third of the album, with the rest of the set list containing reinterpretations of recent original material, songs he wrote for Von Otter and blues singer Charles Brown, plus Charles Mingus and Billy Strayhorn compositions that have been given new lyrics by Costello. It's an eclectic batch, veering from torchy ballads to rambunctious, sprawling jazz reminiscent of the Mingus Big Band, but it holds together well for two reasons. First, it's all anchored by the always remarkable Steve Nieve, whose piano is simultaneously fluid, florid, and tasteful, giving this a musical throughline that holds it steady throughout its twists and turns. But My Flame Burns Blue ultimately succeeds because of Costello, who has chosen his material wisely, sequenced it sharply, and has given it an enthusiastic reading that is arguably his richest live vocal work, rivaling that on the Costello & Nieve box set. As good as this is, it is ultimately closer to a detour -- or perhaps a scenic drive -- than a major item in Costello's catalog. It's inspired and unexpected without quite being surprising, and that's because all the music here does have a natural antecedent somewhere within his catalog. What is noteworthy about My Flame Burns Blue is that Costello manages to tie all these seemingly disparate strands in his work into something that is not only cohesive, but explains an area of his work that hasn't necessarily been accurately documented on record before. But what really makes it a good record is that the performance is lively, energetic, and, yes, joyous, which means that even if this may be an art project, it's flat-out more entertaining than any album he's released since Painted from Memory.
Rolling Stone - David Fricke
1/2 When the Orkest hit the swelling climaxes of "God Give Me Strength," Costello is up there with them, singing with a force and clarity as big and regal as the music around him.

Product Details

Release Date:
Deutsche Grammophon


Album Credits

Performance Credits

Elvis Costello   Primary Artist,Vocals
London Symphony Orchestra   Performing Ensemble
Peter Erskine   Percussion
Vince Mendoza   Conductor
Bart Van Lier   Trombone,Soloist
Steve Nieve   Piano,Melodica,Soloist
Max Boeree   Clarinet,Saxophone
Linda Dumessie   Violin
Jan Elsink   Trombone
Wim Grin   Cello
Olaf Groesz   Cello,Soloist
Henk Heijink   Trumpet
Jan Hollander   Trumpet
Leo Janssen   Clarinet,Saxophone,Tenor Saxophone,Soloist
Dennis Koenders   Violin
Wim Kok   Violin
Eddy Koopman   Percussion
Roel Koster   French Horn
Chris Laurence   Double Bass
Jan Oosthof   Trumpet
Michael Tilson Thomas   Conductor
Aimee Versloot   Viola
Simone Vierstra   Violin
Arlia de Ruiter   Violin
Metropole Orkest   Ensemble
Ruud Breuls   Trumpet,Soloist
Peter Tiehuis   Guitar,Soloist
Mieke Honingh   Viola
Seya Teeuwen   Violin
Erica Korthals Altes   Violin
Jos Beeren   Clarinet,Saxophone,Tenor Saxophone,Soloist
Elisabeth Cats   Violin
Julia Jowett   Viola
Arend Liefkes   Double Bass
Marc Scholten   Clarinet,Saxophone,Alto Saxophone,Soloist
Joke Schonewille   Harp
Janine Abbas   Flute
Willem Luijt   Oboe
David Peijnenborgh   Violin
Mariël Van Den Bos   Flute
Marianne Van Den Heuvel   Violin
Herman Van Haaren   Violin
Erik Kromhout   Violin
Murk Jiskoot   Percussion
Bastiaan Van Der Werf   Cello
Martijn Vink   Drums
Sarah Koch   Violin
Norman Jansen   Viola
Ruben Margarita   Violin
Iris Schut   Viola
Annie Tangberg   Cello
Paul van der Feen   Clarinet,Saxophone,Soprano Saxophone,Soloist
Hans Van Der Zanden   French Horn
Radoslaw Szulc   Leader
John Harle   Saxophone
Christopher Laurence   Double Bass
Olof Groesz   Cello
David Rothschild   Trombone

Technical Credits

Elvis Costello   Composer,Lyricist,Executive Producer,Adaptation
Vince Mendoza   Adaptation
Charles Mingus   Composer
Michael Philip Mossman   Arranger
Burt Bacharach   Composer
Dave Bartholomew   Composer
Richard Harvey   Adaptation
Steve Nieve   Adaptation
Bill Frisell   Adaptation
Colin Nairne   Management
Billy Strayhorn   Composer
Phillip Siney   Engineer
Mike Cox   Engineer
Ed Fotheringham   Illustrations
Sy Johnson   Adaptation
Williem Friede   Adaptation
Roland Heap   Engineer
Mark Buecker   Engineer
Darrell Gilmour   Management
Sid McLauchlan   Producer
Gert Jan van den Dolder   Producer
Gerald Chermin   Monitor Mix Engineer
Fritz Bayens   Executive Producer
Steve Macklam   Management
Joan Reinders   Adaptation
Gert de Bruijn   Engineer
Alex Dembicki   Management
Sy Johnson   Adaptation
Mauro Bigonzetti   Choreographer
Sam Feldman   Management
Gert-Jan Van Den Dolder   Producer
Edwin Fotheringham   Illustrations
David Levinson   Management
Guglielmo Capone   Costume Design
Willem Friede   Adaptation

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My Flame Burns Blue 3 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 1 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago