Elvis Costello & The Roots: Wise Up Ghost and Other Songs

Fri, Sep 13, 2013, 00:00


Wise Up Ghost

Elvis Costello & The Roots

Blue Note


Some collaborations are just fated, and here are two powerhouses who were always destined to be tongue and groove. Both Elvis Costello and The Roots have plenty of common currency, including shared pop culture references and encyclopedic music brains. They know about the art of musical reinvention and the kinetic creative boost that a well-timed collaboration can bring.

For many Costello watchers, the depth and the density of the funk on Wise Up Ghost may surprise. But Costello has long shown a fondness for thick, soulful grooves, and he couldn’t be better paired in this regard than with Questlove. The Roots’ leader and drummer measures grooves by the ton and the yard; he’s a musician of rare vintage who can cue the drum rolls between Bernard “Pretty” Purdie and Buddy Miles.

Funky isn’t the only quality in spades here. Wise Up Ghost is greasy, scuzzy, tense, humid, moody and low-slung, the sound of a bunch of musicians swinging in ways new to them. Costello is hopped-up and vital, throwing shapes lifted from his back-catalogue here and there (Stick Out Your Tongue is a superbly shifty superfly take on Pills & Soap). In the hands of The Roots, tracks rock, roll and render between the full stops as the musicians push a barrage of sounds towards the speakers.

Between Walk Us Uptown, the spiky Refuse to Be Saved, the New Orleans-tipping Come the Meantimes and the mesmeric Viceroy’s Row, Costello and The Roots sound vital, urgent and on point. It’s the match of the day – and perhaps even the year. elviscostello.com
Download: Stick Out Your Tongue, Walk Us Uptown, Refuse to Be Saved