Review of For The Stars
Uncut, 2001-06-01
- Chris Roberts


An acquired taste

Annie Sofie von Otter Meets Elvis Costello
For The Stars
Universal Classics ***

Another unlikely collaboration for the prolific Costello.

Elvis seems to have become addicted to working with his heroes, from McCartney to Bacharach to the Brodskys. The ploy of friendly rivalry's beginning to grate a little. While teaming up with Burt resulted in some skilful, haunted new songs (one of which is rehashed here) with a strong central feel, this tentative, respectful pairing, with the acclaimed opera singer "whose voice affected me like no other", achieves only a rag-bag of covers and Costello songs, mostly sung by her. Elvis croons on just half a dozen, so unless you're into von Otter's vocals - they're a sweet, showy, acquired taste - this is an incurable romantic's curate's egg.

Abba, Beatles ("For No One"), Waits ("Broken Bicycles"), and Cait (Elvis' wife) are among the composers honoured, but over-precious adornments such as accordians from Abba's Benny Andersson only detract from the songs' grace. Von Otter doesn't sound comfortable with such dark lyrics as "Poets lose the power of speech" on Costello's (brand new) title track, or on Brian Wilson's lighter, trippier moments (such as "Don't Talk" from Pets Sounds).

Polished, and always interesting, but a sterile, academic exercise rather than a moving, breathing, organic beast.

Chris Roberts