Here it is at last, the album almost no Elvis Costello fan was looking for: The followup to 1981s Almost Blue. Costello shocked nearly everyone when he made the musical move to Nashville honky-tonk with that record, and on The Delivery Man Costello explores country twang and emotion once again. Guests include Lucinda Williams, Emmylou Harris, and John McFee, one of the members of Clover with whom he recorded his debut disc (McFee subsequently became a Doobie Brother). But this is more than just a country homage. Theres no shortage of rock voltage (Bedlam in particular) alongside the rootsy twang, while The Name of This Thing Is Not Love features jazzy lounge organ. And while Almost Blue was a collection of covers, Costello wrote or co-wrote all the tracks herein.
Elvis Costello Il Sogno (Deutsche Grammophon)
Okay, this is really the album no Elvis fan was expecting. But having delved into most every other type of music on the planet, perhaps we should have been looking for Costello to explore the palette of the symphony orchestra. But even if one could have anticipated such a move, no way would it have been expected that the disc would be so original, so rich, and so rewarding. Listeners will hear traces of Stravinsky, Debussy and Bernstein in the jazzy swells, playful dissonances, and bursts of orchestral color. This is a mature, full-bodied work that Costello himself orchestrated as well as wrote. Michael Tilson Thomas and the London Symphony Orchestra bring it all to glorious life.
Anita Baker My Everything (Blue Note)
Bakers first new album in far too long 10 years, to be exact. While tastes and trends have changed dramatically in that time, Baker has not. And thats a good thing. Her rich alto hasnt lost a thing, and her new songs are for the most part engaging, if not challenging. Maybe theres nothing here on the level of Sweet Love or Caught Up In The Rapture, but theres a lot here that comes close: The opening Youre My Everything, Like You Used To Do (a duet with Babyface), and especially the concluding Men in My Life, a paean to the domestic life, extolling the virtues of her husband and her sons. A welcome return.
Will Ackerman - Returning: Pieces For Guitar 1970-2004 (Marys Tree)
As founder of Windham Hill, Ackerman is as responsible for New Age as anyone. His label released much of the genres formative music, by the likes of George Winston, Liz Story, Shadowfax, and his cousin Alex de Grassi. Ackerman puts to use over 20 years of listening and learning as he revisits some of the music hes previously recorded. In A Region Of Clouds boasts a wistful, slightly countrified melody, while the gentle lines of the following Last Day at the Beach invite the listener to drift off, its gentle lines and ethereal beauty disappearing the way summer settles into fall. Hawk Circle, from 1980, and the following Barbaras Song, written a decade earlier, work together beautifully, as does the entire album.