Friday, March 10, 2006

Music: Elvis Costello Live With The Metropole Orkest, My Flame Burns Blue

It’s a knee-jerk reaction. I will buy anything with Elvis Costello’s name on it. Which can get expensive, because the man is nothing if not prolific. In the last few years he’s released albums of piano ballads (North), roots music (The Delivery Man), and straight ahead rock and roll (When I Was Cruel).

I wasn’t entirely sure what My Flame Burns Blue was when I snapped it up. Now I know. It’s the best recording I’ve heard in ages.

In July 2004, Elvis appeared at the North Sea Jazz Festival with the Metropole Orkest, a full jazz orchestra complete with string section. Together they performed raucous covers of Elvis songs old (‘Watching The Detectives’) and new (‘Episode Of Blonde’), as well as experiments like ‘Hora Decubitus,’ a Charlie Mingus composition for which Elvis composed lyrics. It works like gangbusters.

I love everything about this album, from its Saul Bass-style cover art to the film noir musical arrangements. It even comes with a bonus CD of excerpts from Il Sogno, a suite of music Elvis wrote for a ballet based on Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream. I’m telling you, it’s the gift that keeps on giving.

TV: Carson’s Comedy Classics

Vintage Tonight Show bits – including ‘Johnny San, Samurai Detective,’ in which Johnny and Doc Severinsen pretend to be Japanese complete with bad accents, faulty swords and, for some reason, Liza Minnelli – are now available on demand. And an hour of my life is gone like that.

Miscellaneous: Link

In the era of government wiretapping, Slate considers the evolution of the paranoid thriller.