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A roving jack of all genres

Elvis Costello

“The Delivery Man” (Lost Highway)

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Aclassical piece would be overkill, considering Costello’s simultaneous ballet release. But just about everything else he’s tried in his mercurial career shows up here -- spitfire rocker and country crooner to pop balladeer and jazzy sophisticate, just for a start. An unfocused mess? Nope. It’s his most inspired album in years. Ostensibly a song cycle, the plot (life, love, redemption come into play) isn’t exactly clear, though Lucinda Williams and Emmylou Harris sing enticing character cameos. Recorded at co-producer Dennis Herring’s studio on the Mississippi Delta, the CD has a rustic feel that gives life to the songs. -- Steve Hochman

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Elvis Costello: “Il Sogno”

London Symphony Orchestra. Michael Tilson Thomas, conductor (Deutsche Grammophon)

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Elvis COSTELLO has emphasized that, unlike Frank Zappa, Paul McCartney and other pop composers who have crossed into the symphonic world, he doesn’t rely on a computer, orchestrators or any other musical helpmates. Although “Il Sogno” is his first piece for orchestra, he wrote this full-length ballet score based on Shakespeare’s “Midsummer Night’s Dream” by himself and quickly, in 10 weeks. The style may be conservative and the hour’s worth of music too long by half, but Costello’s sound is surprisingly fresh. His melodies are memorable and untrivial. The sudden swings into jazz prove pure delight. Tilson Thomas’ performance is tops, bursting with life.

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