Elvis Costello's North is an excellent album. The sound of his voice and the instruments on the album are impeccable. Until now, my only other experience listening to Elvis Costello was with his Best of ... First 10 Years album. I thought I would take a chance and purchased this album. I was pleasantly surprised. The album North is very different from his earlier stuff in that he is backed by horns, strings and drums. In fact, this album sounds a lot like it was released by the male version of his wife Diana Krall. The whole album has a very subdued sound and is one of those albums that can be played all the way through without skipping a single song. The horns on "Someone Took The Words Away" are fantastic sounding. In "When Did I Stop Dreaming" there is a piano build-up followed by a little soft drum. This happens a few times throughout the song. The drum sounds so life-like it is unreal. Most of the songs have his voice and the piano as the main elements. This makes it very easy to hear the high fidelity in the recording and the rest of the process to put out the album. I would certainly put this album in the category of audiophile / under the radar. Maybe I was just not paying attention when it was first released, but I don't remember a single word about it from 2003. Maybe it was hyped, maybe it wasn't. Either way, it is a great disc and I encourage anyone who likes audiophile quality sound to pick up this album.
In the song "Fallen", there is a really good sounding string arrangement backing Elvis' vocals. The song is very nice to listen to because his voice is rather deep and the stings are pretty high to medium pitched. It makes a nice sounding contrast. In the song "When It Sings" Elvis really gets into it and his good vocals are readily evident. I once heard the Red Hot Chili Peppers singer Anthony Kedis compared to Elvis and the radio personality thought they sounded identical. I couldn't disagree more. Anthony Kedis cannot sing in my opinion and Elvis Costello actually has surprisingly great vocals. When I first got into his music I kind expected a punk rocker that concentrated more on the message and less on the sound & aesthetics. "Let Me Tell You About Her" is a very jazz club sounding song. Elvis is singing about some personal topics and the fact that gentlemen don't speak of some topics etc... The lyrics are very interesting. This makes the song much better. In the middle of the song a very Miles Davis-like trumpet comes in and seals the deal that this is my favorite song on the album. "Can You Be True" begins with a great string opening. Again, the sound is awesome. Throughout the rest of the song strings play a major role, second only to Elvis' voice.
"When Green Eyes Turn Blue" definitely sounds like a Diana Krall original. A prominent piano opening and mellow tone throughout. If it wasn't evident already, I must admit I am a big fan of Diana Krall and the great sounding albums she releases. The closing song "I'm In The Mood Again" has the best sounding vocals on the whole disc. It sounds like Elvis is right in the room singing. In fact this song, and whole disc, would make an excellent choice for auditioning audiophile equipment. Overall, I am very impressed with all the songs on the disc and the wonderful audiophile sound. If you're an Elvis Costello fan you probably own the disc already. If you're like me and just getting into Elvis this disc is a must have. The songs and the sound are equally great.
Recommended: The whole album is very consistent and flows very well. I suggest purchasing the complete album to hear the superlative sound. If you must try some songs out first I suggest "Let Me Tell You About Her", "I'm In The Mood Again", and "You Left Me In The Dark."
Rating: 4.5 out of 5