Their Aim Is True

Wise Up Ghost
[Blue Note-2013]

As he pushes 60, it’s obvious to even the most casual of observers, punk’s literate Angry Young Man has mellowed considerably over the years. But Elvis Costello’s penchant for placing himself in different and sometimes disparate settings from his own has been a constant throughout his career: from the album of country covers Almost Blue [Columbia-1981] to his collaborations with The Brodsky String Quartet and Burt Bacharach, respectively, the former Declan McManus likes to mix it up, as it were.

And when you couple that with the rare music geek/musician combo that is Roots leader ?uestlove, and release your efforts on the legendary Blue Note label for that extra bit of hip cachet, this is the kind of joint venture that should’ve gone down ages ago, just for the marketing orgasm alone. But don’t believe the hype. Not most of it anyway.

Wise Up Ghost is the proverbial mix of chocolate and peanut butter making a valiant attempt at reaching for Reese’s Pieces glory and only intermittently getting there. (“Viceroy’s Row” might be the perfect distillation of their respective talents.) Both sides rise to the occasion for the most part, but it works best when Costello pushes The Roots closer to his corner, as opposed to the instances where he seems a bit lost, as if he recognizes the buildings but not the neighborhood.