Wednesday, 3 October 2018

Elvis Costello - National Ransom (2010)




Released November 2010

After 2009's very country bluesy and folky offering in "Secret, Profane And Sugarcane", this album still remained in slightly the same vein, but there are differences. There is more rock on here, more full bass and drums, less country guitar, banjo and fiddle. More of an upbeat, fuller sound to some of the material. I much prefer this to its predecessor.

The title track is a real throwback to the glory days of The Attractions - packed full of thumping drums, swirling, parping organ, a general frenetic beat and Costello hammering out the cards and lyrics. The mood goes all 1930s jazzy with the stand up bass lament "Jimmie Standing In The Rain", one of those evocative numbers Costello does so well. "Stations Of The Cross" is a muscular, slow and dignified rock ballad, with solid bass and drums and an impassioned vocal. "A Slow Drag With Josephine" sees Costello go back to the 1920s with a number that is almost a parlour song in its vocal style. Musically, it is given some modern enhancements, with a full, rumbling bass as well as some traditional banjo and jaunty whistling.

"Five Small Words" is a pounding return to bluesy rock. There certainly wasn't anything like this on the previous album. It raises the tempo and feel of the album, something the last album failed to do. There is a catchy Cajun influence underpinning this track. Similarly, the strong, powerful "Church Underground" would not have found a place on the last album. "You Hung The Moon" is back to the 1940s with a slow torch-style song. "Bullets For The New-Born King" is another slow, reflective ballad, this time in an acoustic folk style. "I Lost You" is a catchy, mid-paced country rocker, again showing that there are lots of changes of pace and style here.

"Dr. Watson, I Presume" is a Celtic-influenced folk number with touches of Americana country rock. "One Bell Ringing" is an atmospheric, Paul Weller-influenced slow song, with some delicious deep clarinet on it at one point. "The Spell You Cast" is back to Attractions-style rock, with that "Radio, Radio" organ sound. "That's Not The Part Of Him You're Leaving" is a slow country lament. "My Lovely Jezebel" is a lively, bassy and bluesy rocker, a bit like the material on 2004's "The Delivery Man".  "All These Strangers" returns to the slow, mournful ballad style. The closer, "A Voice In The Dark" is a beautiful piece of 1920s-style jazz that would have sat nicely on Bryan Ferry's "As Time Goes By". It is a delightful piece of melodic, catchy fun to end what is an innovative and adventurous album.

Elvis Costello is a bit of an acquired taste, particularly his later work, I guess you have to like him in the first place. If you do and you are prepared to travel with him through different styles you will like it. If you prefer the old new wave days, then there are plenty of complications that will suit better.

B-

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