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Elvis Costello & the Roots

Wise Up Ghost (Blue Note)

Reviewed by Doug Freeman, Fri., Nov. 22, 2013

Phases and Stages

Elvis Costello & the Roots

Wise Up Ghost and Other Songs (Blue Note)

Unexpected collaboration and stylistic reversal have become hallmarks for Elvis Costello, but none reaches as far afield as teaming with the Roots. While his early throwbacks to classic R&B thread the obvious connection, the Roots traffic in more funked-up rhythms, unloaded at the outset with the scratched groove of "Walk Us Uptown." They also push beyond the singer's vocal range, his gritty croon crackling in contrast to the band's tight rhythms. Retreading Costello's deep cuts exposes the contrast even more on the low broil of "Wake Me Up" rehashing "Bedlam," dark funk of "Stick Out Your Tongue" mashing "Pills & Soap" and "Hurry Down Doomsday," and the waltzing R&B of "Tripwire" playing against "Satellite." Unfortunately, "(She Might Be a) Grenade" reworking "She's Pulling Out the Pin" stands as the only revision that works once the novelty has worn off. Wise Up Ghost, more compelling in theory than practice.

**

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