Sound — 7
New wave forerunner Elvis Costello has been performing music since the early 1970's. His unique lyrical delivery, backed by complimentary guitar work and wordplay-driven lyrics, first caught the attention of critics back in 1977 with the release of his debut studio album, "My Aim Is True." Recorded in a total of twenty four hours, the album spawned several now classic songs in the Costello catalog including "Alison" and "Less Than Zero." "My Aim Is True" proved to be a dynamic introduction to what would be a four decade long music career, with the debut later being named by VH1 as one of the greatest debut albums of all time, and in 2007 being inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame. Since his debut, Elvis Costello has released over twenty studio albums, all of which showed the renowned rock musician staying true to his signature style while continuously captivating his audience. After creating such a large quantity of music over such a broad period of time, not to mention collaborating with similarly famous artists as Paul McCartney and Tony Bennett, there isn't much left for Costello to do that he hasn't already done before. At least, this was before the announcement that Elvis Costello would be creating a new studio album with Grammy Award-winning neo-soul band The Roots. This combination of talent is intriguing to say the least: the jazz-influenced approach to the hip-hop music genre by The Roots, mixed with the contemporary new wave style of Elvis Costello. There is no way this collaboration could go wrong! Well, there is, but because of the two heavyweight names that appear, going in I already had strong expectations for this album. With "Wise Up Ghost," these two renowned names in music manage to mend both of their signature sounds together into one super monger of an album. The song "Walk Us Uptown" sounds exactly as you would probably expect: Elvis Costello singing lead vocals for The Roots. The track begins with eccentric electronic keyboard playing, before kicking into overdrive with a traditional hip hop percussion rhythm and Costello's familiar singing. Although I would have liked to hear Elvis bring more of his rock-oriented style into this collaboration, the nostalgic hip hop influences heavily featured throughout the entire album never fails to capture your attention.
Lyrics — 8
Elvis Costello's vocals are still surprisingly intact after four decades of constant on stage performances and studio recording sessions. None of his classic swagger that coated his singing style on his earlier albums has been lost, and if anything is stronger than it first was on "My Aim Is True." His flawless vocals are what really ties this album together; when you are dealing with such a diverse collection of influences and instrumentation, every other factor in the piece needs to be performed at 100% in order to keep the entire album effortlessly transitioning one song to the next. Elvis not only manages to do just this throughout "Wise Up Ghost," but ends up knocking it out of the park.
Overall Impression — 7
Just when it seemed that there was nothing more that Elvis Costello could deliver, at just the right moment he surprises everyone with a surprise collaboration with The Roots for an entire new studio album. There were many ways in which this album could have gone wrong, especially considering we are talking about two very different groups who perform two very different musical genres. But because the entire lineup performs at their absolute best, they end up revealing very few cracks and flaws in the combination and in the end delivering a standout album that is bound to please fans of both groups.