REX’S RATING: 9 / 10
“Wake Me Up”
“Refuse To Be Saved”
“Walk Us Uptown”
“She Might Be (A Grenade)”
Over the past few years it seems like collaborative projects have become more of a “look-at-me-I’m-collaborating-with-someone-equally-if-not-more-famous-than-me” rather than a genuine effort to brainstorm new ideas with other artists (I’m looking at you, Yeezus). But as soon as I heard that Elvis Costello would be collaborating with The Roots, I had a sneaking suspicion that Wise Up Ghost would be a collaboration album like none other because, well, Elvis Costello is Elvis Costello, and The Roots are The Roots – duh!
Apparently Costello first started collaborating with The Roots (AKA Jimmy Fallon’s “backing band”) when he appeared on Late Night With Jimmy Fallon, and the group worked out together so well Costello eventually turned to the magically funky hippity-hoppers to help him work on his new album.
So needless to say I’ve been waiting patiently to get my greedy little ears on this album as soon as I heard about it, and I knew it was going to be good…but not THIS good. The Roots have clearly helped give a little spark to the Costello flame that has been sputtering out these past few years; (oh who am I kidding? By “years” I mean “decades”), and it’s evident that a lot of blood, sweat, tears – and most importantly – soul were put into the album. The Roots’ influence is definitely more prominent throughout most of the record, and it’s these tracks that give the album the extra funk that it needs. Unfortunately it’s the more Costello-y tracks that put a damper on the album, with songs like “Tripwire” and “If I Could Believe” as well as the tail-end of the album putting me into a borderline sleep-state. There were also a few spots here and there where Costello’s vocals were on the weak side (as heard on “Refuse To Be Saved”), but for a dude that looks like your 80-year-old grandfather (OK I lied, he’s actually a 59-year-old grandfather), he still sounds pretty damn good.
But because the album is packed full of all sorts of funky twists and jazzy turns, you can’t help but be perched at the end of your seat as you’re listening to it, wondering what each track will sound like after the next. From the jazzy, Winehouse-y “Viceroy’s Row,” the attention-grabbing single “Walk Us Uptown,” the full-blown orchestra action with violins and horns on “Refuse To Be Saved,” the haunting nitty-gritty “Stick Out Your Tongue,” and even the badass bluesy ditty “Sugar Won’t Work,” no musical stone goes unturned on this record. They even take a note from Costello’s wife (and my fellow Vancouver Islander) Diana Krall’s notebook by including a little “cantando” on “Cinco Minutos Con Vos.”
So overall I would highly recommend this album to any hardcore Costello fan, Roots fan, funk fan…or any person with good taste in good music (AKA 100% of RMD readers). Hey ?uestlove, call me!