Put Away Forbidden Playthings -- Elvis Costello & Fretwork
Can She Excuse My Wrongs -- Elvis Costello, Fretwork & Composers Ensemble
Fire Suite 1 -- Roy Nathanson with Cyrus Chestnut & Elvis Costello
Fire Suite 3 -- Roy Nathanson with Elvis Costello
Fire Suite Reprise -- Roy Nathanson with Elvis Costello
Gigi -- Elvis Costello & Bill Frisell
Deep Dead Blue -- Elvis Costello & Bill Frisell
Upon a Veil of Midnight Blue -- Elvis Costello & the Punishing Kiss Band
Lost in the Stars
London-born Declan McManus, better known as Elvis Costello, has distinguished his remarkable career with a long and acclaimed string of artistically adventurous albums. this lyrically brilliant and melodically nimble singe... more »r-songwriter's penchant for exploring diverse genres and shifting musical personae is nowhere more front and center than on 1993's The Juliet Letters. Inspired by a collection of missives written by an Italian professor to Shakespeare's Juliet, this unique project fuses pop sensibilities and chamber music form, proving both avant garde and accesssible as Costello gave new meaning to the term "alternative music."« less
London-born Declan McManus, better known as Elvis Costello, has distinguished his remarkable career with a long and acclaimed string of artistically adventurous albums. this lyrically brilliant and melodically nimble singer-songwriter's penchant for exploring diverse genres and shifting musical personae is nowhere more front and center than on 1993's The Juliet Letters. Inspired by a collection of missives written by an Italian professor to Shakespeare's Juliet, this unique project fuses pop sensibilities and chamber music form, proving both avant garde and accesssible as Costello gave new meaning to the term "alternative music."
Unusual collaboration demonstrates that EC knows no boundari
Wayne Klein | My Little Blue Window, USA | 04/21/2006
(4 out of 5 stars)
"I was surprised to see that no one had written a review of one of Elvis Costello's finest albums in the 90's. "The Juliet Letters" certainly is an acquired taste; if you like contemporary classical music you'll enjoy this. The songs still have hooks even if they are played by violin vs. guitar or keyboard. The story behind this release is that there was an academic that answered letters written to Juliet (of the play Romeo and Juliet"). Never mind (as EC points out in his deluxe notes)that it was kind of creepy that someone would be writing letters to imaginery character much less one that had been "dead" for over 200 years.
This reissue features the original album on the first disc. The highlights there are "Swine","I Almost Had a Weakness" with a great melody, "This Offer is Unrepeatable" and "Jacksons, Monk and Rowe". The last track is the closest to a "single" the album would produce. EC wrote, co-wrote with the Brodsky Quartet (some members of the quartet also wrote material solo as well). The remastered sound has better detail than the previous edition but otherwise seems much the same. If Costello and the Brodsky Quartet overreach at times, it's the over reach of talent and ambition not pretension.
The bonus disc is the find here. Including tracks recorded for other projects with and without the Brodsky Quartet including Costello's favorite tracks from the "Deep Dead Blue" Ep released in 1993 recorded with Bill Frisell. We get a stunning version of "God Only Knows" recorded live with the Quartet as well as other material recorded live such as Michael Thomas' marvelous "Skeleton" and a powerful arrangement of the folk standard "She Moved Through the Fair" arranged by Quartet member Paul Cassidy. Two of Costello's collaborations with John Harle from the "Terror and Magnficience" CD are also included. We also get live recordings of "Put Away Forbidden Playthings" (a song that Costello was commissioned to write) as well as a trio of the Fire Suite pieces EC collaborated on.
This is a terrific reissue mixing a number of unusual collaborations on the second disc. While fans who loved "My Aim is True" probably won't be playing this a whole lot Costello fans that love his rich material and unusual collaborations over the years will. This makes an excellent companion piece to "My Flame Burns Blue" Costello's jazz-rock-orchestral album recorded live. That terrific and unusual album has a bonus disc with excerpts from Costello's fine contemporary orchestral piece "Il Sogno" conducted by Michael Tilson Thomas working with the London Symphony Orchestra as a bonus disc. Both of these releases are well worth picking up."
Brave, but not for everyone.
Tim Brough | Springfield, PA United States | 06/07/2006
(4 out of 5 stars)
"I give this a forth star because I still pull it out for the occasional listen. But it remains one of the most difficult CD's in Elvis' careening musical experimentation. What usually happens is I find myself wondering where these songs would have fit had they been recorded for other Costello albums. "Jacksons Monk and Rowe" obviously would have made it as a "Get Happy" song. "For Other Eyes;" "Imperial Bedroom." A folksy arrangement might have sent "Damnation's Cellar" to "King Of America." And so on and so forth....
But the song sequence works wonderfully and the playing of the Brodskys never sinks to pedestrian. These folks obviously understood that they were going to have to throw preconceived ideas about playing with a "rocker," just as Elvis was trying to (as he put it) avoid the dreaded "crossover" sound. My major gripe with the album is that Elvis' voice isn't always up to the task ("North" fares much better in that department). And anyone looking for a "typical" Costello platter is in for a major shock. Of course, anyone trying to define a "typical" Costello disc is probably going to have a rough go of it.....
That doesn't stop "The Juliet Letters" from featuring some fine work, including "The Birds Will Still Be Singing," which deserves a shot with a voice like Josh Groban's or Michael Buble's. Or maybe now that Elvis has his new beau, she'll do a full set of her favorites from the Costello/MacManus discography. Now wouldn't THAT be a hoot? (Think of the lush strings that abounded on "North," over a decade after "The Juliett Letters.")
The bonus disc has some fun things, including cuts from Costello's obscure "Deep Dead Blue" and - my personal favorite - he and the Brodskys covering "God Only Knows.""
C P | Japan | 12/18/2006
(5 out of 5 stars)
"I would say this CD takes a bit of time to get into and it requires a bit of an open mind but it has become a regular listen for me. Elvis Costello's unique and enjoyable vocal and lyrical style is certainly present and that's reason enough to recommend this CD to any Evlis Costello fan.
I can imagine some people may not like this CD so much. The sound of this album is for a particular taste and the sound/style of a string quartet is unwavering which may feel bland after a while to some ears. But there is nothing in poor quality about this CD and the composition is solid and creative throughout. They have gotten a lot of mileage out of a single instrumentation of 4 string instruments and a voice.
I didn't give it 4 stars because that would suggest I had a particular issue with the CD, which I really hadn't. If 4 1/2 were available I would select that."
An experiment for the true fan
Ian R. Bruce | Natick, MA United States | 02/13/2009
(3 out of 5 stars)
"A willful experiment, this song cycle often seems neither fish nor fowl -- not ECs best songwriting, none of his pop-song sensibility, nor an inspired piece of classical music. ECs other collaborations with pop greats like Bacharach or McCartney are much better marriages."
One of my top five albums
Tracy K. Woodard | Atlanta, GA United States | 06/21/2007
(5 out of 5 stars)
"As a classical musician and rabid Costello fan, this is one of my favorite CDs. It's to be listened to from beginning to end, moving from melancholy to nostalgic to sweet to acid humor. The man's a genius, and he used great musicians to support the songs."