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Ross Boissoneau - November 11th, 2004
Elvis Costello – The Delivery Man – (UMG Records)

Here it is at last, the album almost no Elvis Costello fan was looking for: The followup to 1981’s “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. There’s 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)

Baker’s 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 that’s a good thing. Her rich alto hasn’t lost a thing, and her new songs are for the most part engaging, if not challenging. Maybe there’s nothing here on the level of “Sweet Love” or “Caught Up In The Rapture,” but there’s a lot here that comes close: The opening “You’re 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 (Mary’s Tree)

As founder of Windham Hill, Ackerman is as responsible for New Age as anyone. His label released much of the genre’s 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 he’s 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 “Barbara’s Song,” written a decade earlier, work together beautifully, as does the entire album.


 
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