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Album Review
Wise Up Ghost

Wise Up Ghost
by Elvis Costello and The Roots

Blue Note Records

Review Date
2nd October 2013
Reviewed by
Paul Larsen

The bargain bins of music history are littered with ill-advised collaborations. All too often a mutual admiration is mistakenly escalated into a joint effort of unlistenable awkwardness, from which neither party emerges unscathed. Occasionally though, the stars (literally) align and something of real value is created. One such example, Wise up Ghost, is the just-released collaboration between hip hop legends, The Roots and the perennial Elvis Costello.

Crucial to Wise up Ghost’s success is the absence of The Roots MC, Black Thought. Far from being a slight on his ability, this is an important exclusion which frees the band to play the role of Costello’s backing group; a trade they’re well rehearsed in as Jimmy Fallon’s late night house band. Fittingly, Questloves steps into the role of band leader and his heady live drum sound becomes the pivot for the album’s sound – capably connecting the two musical worlds.

The songs themselves vary from straight-up R&B to experimental rock but at its heart, this is a funk record. Underlining this, the half-step beats on songs like ‘Sugar Won’t Work’ and ‘(She Might Be A) Grenade’ are superbly complemented by Costello’s relaxed yet engaged delivery while subtle strings and samples are used to provide flashpoints of interest. Fun, lively and interesting, Wise up Ghost shouldn’t leave fans of either artist disappointed and may even create a few more in the process.


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