This was to be another of Costello's concept albums, with songs that Elvis wrote first for other artists, until he backed out and included some newer material. The idea was a good one, though. It seemed to focus Elvis and his band on strong songs, not just a sound. Producer Geoff Emerick is Costello's most sympathetic collaborator other than Nick Lowe, and certainly the most careful: The arrangements are meticulous and quite unique for this veteran band. Although some of Costello's lyrics still baffle — what's this about "bamboo needles" and "shellac of Chopin," anyway? — the songs are sharp. All This Useless Beauty is heavy on the ballads, and will take some getting used to, but it has a richness and depth Costello has often missed over the last decade.