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Classic Album Reviews: Elvis Costello | For the Stars: Anne Sofie von Otter Meets Elvis Costello / The Very Best of

Get the best of both Elvii with a pair of new releases from the prolific performer.

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This came out in 2001 – or at least that’s when I got it. Here’s what I said about it back then (with some minor editing):

 


When Declan MacManus swiped the first name of the King of Rock and paired it with the last name of a King of Comedy, he was just a snotty young upstart literally trying to make a name for himself. Now, 25 years later, Elvis Costello is pop royalty in his own right — not to mention one of music’s most adventurous and eclectic artists.

Whichever version you prefer, there’s a new Costello CD out there for you. Fans of his recent collaborations with Brodsky Quartet and Burt Bacharach won’t want to miss For the Stars, which teams him with operatic mezzo-soprano Anne Sofie von Otter. It’s not as odd as you might suspect; in the main, Costello wisely refrains from going toe-to-toe with von Otter, opting to stay in the background and fashion splendidly orchestrated neo-classical pop tracks for her to interpret. For her part, Anne Sofie discreetly reins in her powerful pipes, lightly wrapping her dulcet tones around magnificent takes on Tom Waits (Broken Bicycles, Take it With Me), Lennon and McCartney (For No One), Brian Wilson (Don’t Talk, You Still Believe in Me) and even Abba (Like an Angel Passing Through my Room — with Benny on keyboards!), in addition to a slate of Costello tunes. For the Stars is definitely one for the time capsule. Speaking of time capsules, there’s The Very Best of Elvis Costello, a new two-CD compilation covering his career from My Aim is True’s Alison to 1998’s God Give me Strength. While there’s no disputing the essentialness of these 42 tracks, fans might question the presentation — the set isn’t always in chronological order, there are no liner notes save credits, and there are only two pictures of Elvis. Not exactly a tribute fit for a king.