Record Collector, April 2006

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Record Collector


My Flame Burns Blue

Elvis Costello & The Metropole Orkest

Terry Staunton

On stage, with an eclectic polite orchestra


It's a safe bet that around half the people enthralled by Costello's triumphant rediscovery of his rock 'n' roll chops on 2004's The Delivery Man will be equally irritated by his latest contrary career move. Finally deigning to release a full-length live album, he's chosen to do so in the company of a Dutch jazz orchestra, revisiting various past glories in big band crooner mode.

But this is no Sinatra-by-numbers karaoke self-lovefest, a la Robbie Williams, rather an opportunity to make a few fresh folds in his own bygone blueprints. The two most familiar selections are the ones given the most radical overhauls; "Clubland"'s new samba arrangement transports the song from its seedy Soho origins to something straight out of Our Man In Havana, while "Watching The Detectives" has been reworked in the style of an Elmer Bernstein film noir piece more fitting to its lyric. His intentions are even more clearly set out on the title track and the opening "Hora Decubitus," Elvis grafting his own words onto works by, respectively, Duke Ellington and Charles Mingus. The playing is magnificent throughout, even if there's a slight suspicion that the improv-happy musos are exercising a modicum of restraint in deference to their new band leader.

At times the vocal and the jazz bombast don't quite gel, although such occasional jarring clumsiness can be forgiven when quickly followed by showstoppers like the smoky "Upon A Veil Of Midnight Blue" (originally written for Mary Coughlan) or the more tempered reading of his first Bacharach collaboration, "God Give Me Strength." Those of us who delight in the great man's musical mood swings (his recent cover of Christina Aguilera's "Beautiful" for the TV drama House is truly a thing of beauty) will be more than chuffed, especially considering the bonus disc abridged version of 2004's Il Sogno "ballet"; but it's far from an essential purchase for anyone whose Elvis adulation begins and ends with "Oliver's Army."

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Record Collector, No. 322, April 2006

Terry Staunton reviews My Flame Burns Blue.


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