“Wise Up Ghost,” a collaborative album by musical chameleon Elvis Costello and hip-hop legends The Roots, was released on Sept. 17. While Costello is known for his varied sound, he has never worked with hip-hop musicians until this album. Many people find two diverse groups don’t always mix well. Luckily, Wise Up Ghost not only blends rock and hip-hop successfully, it also adds in some R&B and Funk to the mix.
The idea of collaboration began when Elvis Costello was the musical guest on “Late Night with Jimmy Fallon” in 2009. While backstage, The Roots covered Costello’s famous “I Don’t Want to Go to Chelsea,” which Costello absolutely loved. By 2011, after Costello and The Roots finished their respective albums, they finally had time to work on “Wise Up Ghost.”
“Wise Up Ghost” is definitely not the best work by either party, but it is refreshing. It’s a group of brilliant friends getting together to record an album. Musicians having fun is a great thing to listen to.
Some of the songs do carry on a tad too long, like the six-minute “Can You Hear Me.” Outside of that, many of the songs find themselves within the five-minute range, which slowed the album a bit.
The biggest loss on the album is the fact that Black Thought, MC of The Roots, doesn’t appear on the album. Black Thought has paved his way with The Roots as one of the greatest rappers, and his absence is notable in “Wise Up Ghost.” They missed a great opportunity on the track “Come the Meantimes.”
On a positive note, Costello’s vocals are quite charming and make up a lot of the pleasures of the album. From his rocking, raspy voice on “Walk Us Uptown” to his delicately beautiful mark on “Tripwire,” Costello gives us plenty of sounds to make the album feel fresh throughout.
Lyrically, it does sound a lot like some of Costello’s earlier work, which isn’t necessarily bad. For some of his avid fans, it seems as if Costello is trying to be younger. However, I do find the lyrics enjoyable, and nowhere near a midlife crisis Costello.
Musically, the album contains some of the greatest musicians since the birth of rock. In his own right, Costello is one of the greats, accompanying different tunes with his signature Fender Jazzmaster