Elvis Costello has out done himself this time with his latest album, Spike.
And it's a breath of fresh air in a musical industry suffering from severe overplay.
Spike is not an example of technopop or the bang-your-head-on-the-wall heavy metal noise which has climbed the charts and stayed there lately.
In fact, Costello must have taken lessons in enunciation because you can understand the majority of his lyrics without the handy, dandy words printed on the album cover.
Though he does seem easier to understand, Costello (who compares with the likes of R.E.M. when it comes to baffling the listener with lyrics as understandable as "ooh hafdey naheh") provides the listener with lyrics for the first time — and this man has released more than 10 albums.
Featuring artists such as Paul McCartney, Chrissie (The Pretenders) Hynde and the Dirty Dozen Brass Band. Costello finds himself in good company with this release.
The first song on the album, "..This Town ..." is a good start for Costello because his avid followers are not shocked, as some would be, if he led off with "Stalin Malone," a fairly jazzy, instrumental piece leading off side two.
Hynde's harmony vocals ring loud and clear on "Satellite." She is incredible and contributes a great deal to the song which deals with one person's misfortune being another's dream.
The Dirty Dozen Brass Band, featured in "Stalin Malone," add more to the music than electric drum pads or a technopop keyboard could.
The band creates an aura of jazz, the roaring 1920s and rhythm and blues on each song it performs — sometimes combining all three.
Though the be-bop may not involve dances such as the "Funky Chicken," "Da Butt" or "Oak Tree," the music does create an urge to get up out of the chair and move.
An example of this is "Chewing Gum," also featuring the Dirty Dozen Brass Band, which creates a dance mood with its upbeat rhythm and creative base line.
But just becasue the album's music is danceable does not mean it is all happy-go-lucky.
Quite the contrary.
"Tramp the Dirt Down" speaks of corruption and greed in the world and the laughter heard ringing overhead as people attending a funeral stomp on the dirt above a newly filled grave.
Though Spike is a great album, flipping from side one to side two could be quite a shock.
You would expect music similar to the front side on the back, but it just isn't there.
Side two seems to be a little slower and dreamier than side one, with the exceptions of "Stalin Malone" and "Pads, Paws and Claws".
Though the arrangement of side one deserves praise, it is hard to believe side one and side two are on the same album. The ending of the album leaves teh listener in a state of depression.
With "Last Boat Leaving", Costello has dad saying "Goodbye" to mom and son, leaving on the "last boat leaving this stinking town" with the potential to never return.
Though Costello has been around a while, he shows with "Spike" he is not yet ready to quit.
Warner Bros Records Inc has put "The Beloved Entertainer" where he should be - back on the album cover in store racks and on people's stereos wanting to be played.