Look Now — Elvis Costello’s back again

Ottawa Sun - - SHOWBIZ - — The As­so­ci­ated Press

Like in Anna Karen­ina, the char­ac­ters in Look Now, Elvis Costello’s sump­tu­ous new al­bum with The Im­posters, are each un­happy in their own way. A woman who laments her de­te­ri­o­rated mar­riage while do­ing some ren­o­va­tions around the house (Strip­ping Pa­per); a di­lap­i­dated mu­sic-hall singer whose re­turn to show­biz may be brief (Un­der Lime); a daugh­ter pon­der­ing her dad’s in­fi­delity (Pho­to­graphs Can Lie) and so on. What make it easy to be sym­pa­thetic with even the most pitiable of those in these very hu­man songs are Costello’s el­e­gant melodies and ar­range­ments, which re­sult in a kind of silkier, even more debonair ver­sion of Im­pe­rial Bed­room, his 1982 al­bum pro­duced by re­cently de­parted Bea­tles record­ing en­gi­neer Ge­off Em­er­ick.

Costello’s gui­tars are mostly in a sup­port­ing role. Horns, wood­winds and strings — as well as some of the liveli­est back­ing vo­cals on an EC al­bum since Afrodiziak lit up Punch the Clock — plus the deft hands of The Im­posters and Ar­gen­tine-born co-pro­ducer Se­bas­tian Krys, turn Look Now into one of his most son­i­cally grat­i­fy­ing records. Burt Bacharach com­posed some of the mu­sic and Costello also dusted off Burnt Sugar Is So Bit­ter, an­other tale of do­mes­tic gloom, writ­ten years ago with Ca­role King. But there are sev­eral oth­ers, in­clud­ing Why Won’t Heaven Help Me and Strip­ping Pa­per, which show how deeply those 1960s sounds, from pop to soul, in­flu­enced Costello and how ex­pertly he ap­plies them in his own su­perla­tive song­writ­ing, which Look Now has plenty of.

Costello said he recorded the lead vo­cals as he was re­cov­er­ing from a cancer scare and it made him feel in­vig­o­rated in­stead of de­pressed. The power of his voice here, in­clud­ing that char­ac­ter­is­tic long-wave vi­brato, con­firms his mood.

Look Now (Con­cord Records)

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