Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Elvis Costello, Juliet Letters and Covers

I've been a fan of Elvis Costello's for too many years, through all his various sound experiments, some good, some not so good. His collaboration with the Brodsky Quartet was one of the most successful of his "outside the box" ventures, in my opinion... an exquisite song cycle that combined the rock intensity of Costello's songwriting and voice with the elegance of a string quartet (!).

Guess I wasn't the only one who enjoyed the effort, because there are a couple of recent CDs "covering" the Juliet Letters album. "The Juliet Letters" with Michelle Murray and David Murray rejiggers the music for solo piano, with Ms. Murray doing her operatic best to croon the tunes. Unfortunately, transposing the music to piano isn't all that interesting, and hearing the song cycle sung "straight" without Costello's growls and intonations sucks a lot of the life out of the piece.

"The Juliet Letters" by Kerry-Anne Kutz and the Abysse Quartet is somewhat more successful, if only because singer Kutz injects a little more fire into the proceedings. But in both cases, the recordings strike me more like interesting curiosities than genuinely successful reinterpretations.

The CD to get is Costello's original. Rhino recently released a remastered, double-disc "Juliet Letters" set from Rhino, which features the entire original song cycle + an entire disc of like-minded extras. I was lucky enough to see Costello and the Brodsky Quartet do the Juliet Letters live, and their hair-raising version of the Beach Boys hit "God Only Knows", previously only available as a promo, is worth the price of the CD by itself.


Anonymous DM said...

Whine, whine, bitch, bitch, moan moan.

7:23 AM  

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