Next week, folks from New Jersey will have three chances to see Elvis Costello & The Imposters in either Red Bank at the Count Basie Theatre or Montclair at the Wellmont Theatre. Born Declan Patrick MacManus, Costello has been prominent in the music scene since the mid-1970s, and has certainly developed a cult following over the decades. His innovative lyrics separate him from other ‘pop’ songwriters, and his music tends to fall in many different categories. Even so, let’s take a look at his 2010 release National Ransom (purists will remind us that even though this album does feature some members of the Imposters, it is technically a solo record).
The title track starts off the album, and we get a nice, typical Costello rock number with overdrive guitars, organs, and harmonies. ‘Jimmie Standing in the Rain’ has a chamber sound due to its strings and muted trumpet background over the staccato guitar chords. The arrangement for ‘Stations of the Cross’ is very interesting, featuring piano and strings over a simple drum beat that includes timpani hits. There are some nice harmonies near the end of the song, as well. ‘A Slow Drag with Josephine’ also has a small backing accompaniment, and a banjo even makes a short appearance. We finally get another rock tune with ‘Five Small Words’ and the lyrics seem to convey a hatred that Costello has been building up over time.
‘Church Underground’ uses its minor tonality to convey the mystery in the vocals. After that, we hear a very sweet ballad entitled ‘You Hung the Moon’, with its strings, drum brushes, and jazz guitars. ‘Bullets For The New-Born King’ is just Costello and an acoustic guitar (and some weird echo effects). One of the most popular songs on the album is ‘I Lost You’, Costello’s jump into country music. Of course, he does it with his own technique and pizzazz. ‘Dr Watson, I Presume’ has an acoustic guitar riff throughout the entire number, with other strumming instruments providing the background. ‘One Bell Ringing’ might sound like an acoustic guitar solo, but the horns and saxophones were an excellent addition.
‘The Spell That You Cast’ brings back memories of early Costello records, while ‘That’s Not the Part of Him You’re Leaving’ is an easy country ballad in ¾ time. A funk piano riff starts off ‘My Lovely Jezebel’ and it’s such a great song, that we’re left wondering why it was placed so late in the album. ‘All These Strangers’ brings us back to a slow tempo with slide and acoustic guitars and perfect background harmonies. ‘A Voice In The Dark’ closes off the album, with a sound reminiscent of Cole Porter.