There’s really no reason for a recording like Wise Up Ghost to exist, but there’s every reason to kick back and enjoy it.
Review by David Feltman
The collaborative project between Elvis Costello and The Roots sounds pretty much how you’d imagine it. The two disparate and generally uncompromising artists mash up their respective nasal post-punk and funky jazz/rock fusion into an experimental mélange. As a rule, it’s wise to be wary of such team ups (remember Lou Reed and Metallica?), but Costello and The Roots put together the sort of top tier, white boy electro-funk on Wise Up Ghost that should shame Beck into retirement.
The most surprising thing about the album is how well the two styles jive without drowning out the individuality of those involved. This isn’t Costello singing for The Roots or The Roots backing Costello, but a true partnership. Costello channels the cocksure punk attitude of his earlier work, which fits neatly with the R&B-infused, rap-inspired music of The Roots. Together they create moments of Curtis Mayfield-ian cinematic soul and Mos Def-ian literary hip-hop. The two wisely give each other time to shine, with Costello crooning away on “Tripwire” and “If I Could Believe” and The Roots’ mad scientist jazz hanging out on “Walk Us Uptown” and “Refuse to Be Saved.”
There’s a spirit of joy and experimentation that pervades the project making it a lot of fun. The combo tinkers with salsa, rock, funk and whatever else strikes their fancies. As a result, the album delivers plenty of unexpected turns and offers a sound that’s both modern and nostalgic. There’s really no reason for a recording like Wise Up Ghost to exist, but there’s every reason to kick back and enjoy it.