At face value, it may not seem like Elvis Costello and The Roots would be a natural pairing, but their new collaborative album Wise Up Ghost is proof that their musical visions sync up in a special way. The project started on the set of Late Night With Jimmy Fallon, where drummer Ahmir ”?uestlove” Thompson and The Roots are the house band.
“Elvis first came on the Jimmy Fallon show in 2009,” ?uestlove explained to Entertainment.ie. “I knew he was a fan of the Voodoo album I did with D’Angelo, so we asked if he would be open to the idea of ‘remixing’ his stuff. He was into it, so we did these radical versions of ‘High Fidelity’ and ‘I Don’t Want to Go to Chelsea,’ and he loved it. Then we did that a second time the next year, and then last year he was on when the show did a Bruce Springsteen tribute week. At that point, I kinda subliminally put out the idea of a larger collaboration. I was passive-aggressively suggesting it—I was too afraid to actually say, ‘Let’s make a record together.’”
Thompson and Costello began by writing songs together. Costello brought lyrics to the project – ones he’d already written but hadn’t used before. In some cases, the lyrics were written 20 to 30 years apart.
“We didn’t know what form it might take, whether it was a song or an EP or what,” Costello said. “But ideas kept tumbling out, and they seemed connected by an approach to rhythm and lyric writing.
I don’t know the name for this music. It’s a cauldron full of powders and potions, frogs and fingers, and that’s what I call rock and roll—because that’s what it was, originally. I’m not much bothered about the labels, though. What I care is whether we like it and can stand by it.”
Besides his songwriting talents, Costello lays down bass on three tracks: “Wake Me Up,” “Stick Out Your Tongue” and “My New Haunt” (from the Deluxe edition). The majority of the bass goodness is dished out by Roots bassist Mark Kelley, who joined the band in 2011.
Session legend Pino Palladino was called in to add his iconic grooves to “Sugar Won’t Work,” “If I Could Believe,” and “The Puppet Has Cut His Strings.”
All three of the bassists on the album help define the project’s smooth, mid-tempo vibe and infectious head bobbing.
Wise Up Ghost Track List:
- Walk Us UPTOWN
- SUGAR Won’t Work
- REFUSE To Be Saved
- WAKE Me Up
- Stick Out Your TONGUE
- Come The MEANTIMES
- (She Might Be A)GRENADE
- CINCO Minutos Con Vos
- VICEROY’S Row
- Wise Up GHOST
- If I Could BELIEVE
- My New HAUNT (Deluxe Edition)
- Can You HEAR Me? (Deluxe Edition)
- The PUPPET Has Cut His Strings (Deluxe Edition)