17 of 17 people found the following review helpful
From heartbreak to hope,
This review is from: North (Audio CD)
I've long been a fan of Elvis Costello so I'd have bought this album no matter what the reviews where. From what I've read so far its very much a mixed reaction that has greeted this latest offering from arguably one of our greatest living songwriters. I think people struggle to understand that Costello is a writer who has constantly evolved throughout his career, from early angry young man, through country and western, past string quartet and close harmony vocals to present day. He isn't a writer who has a 'type' of music, but it is his voice and emotion that gives all of his work that unique touch. Whatever he produces you can be sure that it will be no casually written song, but carefully constructed and presented. And in many ways that is what I like about this latest recording.
'North' is very much a story, following the sequence of the tracks is essential to getting the feel of the whole piece. Its the story of losing love and finding someone new and for me captures the subtle stages we all go through brilliantly. The pain of separation, the uncertainty of new partners, the admiration of lovers and the overwhelming optimism being with someone give you. The whole rollercoaster in fact. The titles of the tracks almost give away how the tale unfolds, but it is only in listening to the lyrics that you get the full effect of Costellos mastery of songwriting.
The musical settings for these songs is a obviously influenced by his works with Bacharach, but they have been given the quirky chord changes that make them stand out as original and wonderful Costello. Piano and strings dominate the music, and at times almost have an air of Noel Coward about them. Not that the album is perfect. I found the opening 3 songs a little uninspiring even though the lyrics are well crafted. In particular the second song 'Someone Took The Words Away' is the best description of being tongue tied and uncertain I've ever heard. Tracks 5 to 8 are most definitely the strongest musically, but then we are beginning to fall back in love along with the narrator so the music reflects this. 'Still' is quite simply breathtaking, sounding wonderful yet written with such beautiful phrases that it is humbling to hear. 'Let Me Tell You about Her' is funny and far too close to the truth. For anyone who has bored their friends to tears talking about their latest amour they will love this song.
In short the album is the best piece of lyricism I've heard for a long time. A true and simple depiction of falling out of and into love. Whether the musical setting is to everyones tastes I'm unsure. If you enjoyed the work Costello did with Bacharrach or the Brodsky Quartet then musically you will love this. It has much more in common with 'The Juliet Letters' than 'When I Was Cruel' or 'Armed Forces'. But then who wants to stand still? Elvis Costello more than any living 'pop' artist continually tries to explore and develop his abilities. This album is a breath of fresh air and in my opinion is a quite beautiful and brilliant piece of work. Again Costello has developed as a writer and I can only hope this continues for a long, long time.