Depending on how you look at this, the paths of Elvis Costello and The Roots represent a much more natural crossing that it seems. The ‘How’ is answered rather simply. We can thank The Jimmy Fallon Show for putting them both in the same room (and on the same stage). But why they took it one step further to produce one of the year’s most intriguing albums really lies within the musical character of both acts. For The Roots, collaboration has always been a constant. And their versatility to play alongside any and all musical ensembles is the reason they’re the one of the most sought after live acts. For Costello, much the same. He’s never been shy of a musical challenge and since the late 70s has tried his hand at just about all styles. So does their collective desire for musical exploration lend itself to a fruitful collaboration on Wise Up Ghost? It sure does.
As cliché as it sounds, the music really speaks for itself on Wise Up Ghost. In terms of Costello, he’s the main voice on the album with The Roots laying down the foundation and coloring in the sonic landscape. ?uestlove and the band lead us into soulful, funky territory on songs like “Refuse to To Saved” and the seductive “Wake Me Up”. Costello sounds reinvigorated on the collection. It’s a definitive and welcomed departure from the country and folk inspired albums (Secret, Profane & Sugarcane, National Ransom) that preceded this. With songs like “Walk Us Uptown” and “Come the Meantimes”, Costello confidently steps right back into a contemporary world (even if The Roots are drawing from classic soul).
Unlike so many collaborative records, Wise Up Ghost is truly as interesting as the headlines read. And not only does the music offer the best of what both parties are capable of, but it’s a direction, for Costello at least, that many have been craving for.