Costello’s ‘Ransom’ note rings true


ELVIS COSTELLO National Ransom (Hear Music)

On his second consecutive outing with producer T Bone Burnett, the ever-adventurous Elvis Costello delivers a diverse collection of Americana-laced rock that reveals last year’s Secrets Profane and Sugarcane was just a warm-up.
On National Ransom, which Costello recently previewed during a live performance for AOL Sessions, he traverses from one style to another: the Tex-Mex rock of the title track; the gypsy jazz of “Jimmie Standing in the Rain,” the melodic folk of “A Slow Drag with Josephine,” the boogie-woogie of “My Lovely Jezebel” (co-written with Burnett and the newly rediscovered Leon Russell).
This time around, Costello and Burnett augmented the loose band of Nashville players with members of Costello’s long-time band the Imposters (really just the Attractions with a different bass player.) Drummer Pete Thomas appears on most of the tracks while keyboard player Steve Nieve and bass player Davey Faragher show up here and there, joining such session aces as fiddler player Stuart Duncan, lap steel player Jerry Douglas and singer Jim Lauderdale.
Costello sounds in full command; everything a natural progression from his musical travels rather than a series of genre exercises. Few singer-songwriters — especially a Brit — appreciate the full spectrum of American music as Costello does.

TOM PETTY AND THE HEARTBREAKERS Damn the Torpedoes: Deluxe Edition (Geffen)

Bruce Springsteen’s new Darkness on the Edge of Town double-disc outtake package (and separate elaborate box set) features more than an album’s worth of material that didn’t make the cut for the original 1978 release. By contrast, Tom Petty’s landmark Damn the Torpedoes: Deluxe Edition includes just a handful of extras from the sessions for the 1979 multiplatinum-selling album.
That’s because rather than recording scores of songs, the Heartbreakers — thanks to producer Jimmy Iovine – spent endless hours perfecting a small batch of tunes. But you can’t build a box set with 100 versions of the same song; the band reportedly recorded even more than that to get the perfect take of “Refugee.” (Remember, kids, this was back in the Stone Age before Pro Tools.)
The nine outtakes, live cuts and demos – including an early run-through of “Refugee” — complement the original album and offer a glimpse of a few that got away, such as the studio tracks “Nowhere” and “Surrender.” Greatest in the batch is the B-side “Casa Dega,” a song about fortune telling anchored by a killer bass line from Ron Blair that would have ranked among the original albums best tracks had it been included.


Albert King and Stevie Ray Vaughan together — for blues fans, what could be more magical?
In Session, King’s intimate guitar summit with Vaughan, was recorded for broadcast in 1983, the year Vaughan reached national prominence with his recording debut, Texas Flood. By then King had long been heralded as one of the giants of the blues. The 11 tracks on the CD included in this package have been previously released. But the DVD, which also includes performances left off the broadcast, makes its debut here.
Among the extras: epic guitar jams on King’s ‘60s hit “Born Under a Bad Sign” and Vaughan’s “Texas Flood.” The rapport between the two guitarists, the wizened blues master and the young acolyte, makes this once-in-a-lifetime event something special indeed.

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