The template of the music Elvis Costello makes with collaborators The Roots on WISE UP GHOST is a hodgepodge of influences - James Brown drumming, Parliament fuzz guitars, Stevie Wonder funky wurlitzers and electric pianos, and plenty of strings and horns. The result is Curtis Mayfield less gritty but harder.
Costello lyrically seems especially inspired. His lyrics are not as much as elliptical here as directly angry pointed at power, wealth, inequities in life. Probably the album’s weirdest moment is in Stick Out Your Tongue when he recycles the lyrics of Pills and Soap and Hurry Up Doomsday for the verses and couples them with a new melody and chorus.
Actually, as strange an idea as this may sound, this is hardly Costello’s weirdest collaboration when you consider he’s made albums with Burt Bacharach, Allan Toussaint, and The Brodsky Quartet. Costello is the ultimate music fan and he could probably make a good record with anybody these days.
The final word is this feels like an Elvis Costello record albeit one with a certain set of parameters for its background musicians. Costello is certainly not out of his comfort zone here and as I mentioned above he sounds angry and impassioned on some of the tunes and that’s a good thing.
Also some of his singing on the slower tunes is gorgeous. Is there any singer whose voice has aged better than EC?