New Zealand Herald, October 25, 2003

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Elvis Costello

Russell Baillie


In case you hadn't heard, Elvis Costello is soon to get hitched to jazz diva Diana Krall. At least they should save some money on music at the reception. Or they could just slip this on the stereo — it should stop his future in-laws worrying that he's still the pigeon-toed rocker he returned to being on last year's When I Was Cruel.

The closest relation this set of piano-powered ballads has is Painted From Memory, his terrific collaboration with Burt Bacharach.

Only this one, even with its personal ruminations on love lost and found again, lacks the drama or melodicism of that predecessor and so struggles to make much of an impression or to engage the emotions. Its 11 tracks soon start to sound like one long variation on a theme, with Costello's voice quivering over long-time accompanist Steve Nieve's piano and some extra-tasteful orchestrations and jazz bits.

There's graceful phrasing in abundance, especially on "Someone Took the Words Away," "When Did I Stop Dreaming." And the heart-on-sleeve declarations of "Still" and "Let Me Tell You About Her" are the lyrical equivalent of opening an engagement ring box. But in its understated efforts to be subtle and elegant, North ends up a little stifling.


New Zealand Herald, October 25, 2003

Russell Baillie reviews North.


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