Thursday, April 5, 2012

Spinning Songbook Countdown: For The Stars

This album maybe a stretch or perhaps just a curio as one of its songs is called.

A collaboration between Elvis Costello and Swedish mezzo-soprano singer Annie Sofie von Otter, For The Stars was released in 2001 and features a collection of covers and Costello originals performed with a classical music ensemble.

Though von Otter is not a pop vocalist, she's known mainly for performing operas, she does a good job in most of the songs handpicked by Costello - who in turn only sings in a few songs. Despite the few times his voice appears in the album, his imprint is throughout the album as either a performer, arranger and producer.

Still, von Otter's voice can be too distracting as it switches back and forth between her classical roots to touches of jazz and pop. The music around her voice is the real attraction, creating intriguing versions of pop classics by the Beach Boy, the Beatles, Tom Waits and even ABBA.

I wouldn't recommend buying the whole album unless you truly enjoy von Otter's voice but the following songs would be great additions to your music library:

No Wonder: My favorite song on the album. A Costello original featuring one of his best melodies and a chorus that makes you want listen to this song again and again. Costello recently played it live during a solo European tour and it was even better than the version on this album.

Rope: Another Costello original exclusively for this album. The almost menacing melody seems perfect for the opening credits in a stalker thriller. Von Otter's voice works perfectly in this song, which could easily be turned into a killer remix.

Don't Talk (Put Your Head On My Shoulder)/You Still Believe in Me: The two Beach Boys songs are the only covers that I think benefit from the arrangement. The former turned into an incredibly romantic song while the latter has a more innocent tune.

Classics: No Wonder, Rope

Songs I'd like to hear live: No Wonder

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