Is it 1980? I am not a total curmudgeon about music. I love Katy Perry’s “Roar,” and Justin Timberlake wailing away on that “Holy Grail.” But this week recalls, by coincidence, two music stars who’ve survived and grown since their debuts circa 1977– Elvis Costello and Garland Jeffreys. One is from England, the other from Brooklyn. They appeared around the same time 36 years ago and kept getting lumped together in reviews. Who’da thunk they’d be back in the same review three and a half decades later?
Elvis Costello and The Roots have made a moody, incredibly catchy album with “Wise Up Ghost.” It’s Costello’s best album since before “National Ransom” and “Momofuko.” Costello always does well when bass and rhythm come into play. The Roots give him a groove, and the album recalls the best of “Get Happy!” and “Trust.” Don Was, running Blue Note at EMI- Universal, had a lot to do with this.
Costello remains king of clever of wordplay– “What you going to say to me?/Will be betraying me?” He’s back! (I wish the booklet weren’t printed in smaller type than a phone book.) “Come the Meantimes” is only one of the delights. Frankly, the more I’ve played “Wise Up Ghost,” the more each track has found its own place in my heart very much like Costello of yore. “Wake Me Up” and “Tripwire” are simply addictive. But the bell and the “right now” refrain, punctuated by Roots bass, make “Come the Meantimes” a potential concert classic. I think I am most in love right now with “Cinco Minutos Con Vos,” and incantatory duet with Costello and La Marisoul that amounts to their own operetta.
And then there’s the great Garland Jeffreys. His “Truth Serum” follows up a near perfect album called “The King of In Between.” Jeffreys puts out his own albums now after years and years with A&M. He recently celebrated his 70th birthday. His mixture of R&B and reggae and a little rock and roll never fails to have a New York sound, indescribably urban and pop. I’ve been mixing back and forth between Costello and Jeffreys all week. If someone in radio land would pick up Jeffreys’ “Is This the Real World?” I’d be very happy.
If you’re in New York on September 23rd, Jeffreys plays an album launch party at the Rockwood Music Hall. Don’t miss it.
Two great albums in one week. And next Tuesday– Sting, and Elton John. Real music. What a relief. No samples or “interpolations.” I am grinning from ear to ear.
PS You must listen to these albums on a stereo, with great speakers, and not through ear buds or on a computer. Wired speakers, not Bluetooth. Please, I beg you. Real music should not be compressed except for long trips.
Listen to Garland’s “Any Rain”: