I can’t say I’ve revisited this album much since it first came out, but every time I hear one of its songs I’m reminded how much I like it.
Costello released two albums in the past five years: Wise Up Ghost, his 2013 collaboration with The Roots; and 2010’s National Ransom. If one of those records were to make my list, it would have been the latter.
Over the next couple of weeks I will feature some of the many B-sides and alternate tracks that Costello has released over the years. Each of the CD reissues of his albums contains a treasure trove of material — songs that wound up as other songs in vastly different forms, covers, discarded tracks that are better than the album’s they were cut from, all sort of marvelous odds and ends.
I’ll spend two weeks on those before retiring old Elvis and giving somebody else a shot.
A mere six months and 24 albums after I started the Elvis Costello weekends, I arrive at the man’s most recent album. 2010’s National Ransom picked up where Secret, Profane and Sugarcane left off, using the same musicians, similar styles and even nearly identical cover art.
But while the former album felt half-assed (by Elvis’ standards), National Ransom is a rich and resonant work — for my money, the most consistently great record he’s released since King of America.
Produced by T Bone Burnett, who is on a hell of a roll the past decade or so, National Ransom is also one of the best sounding records Costello has ever released, with rootsy instrumentation bringing the country- and jazz-flavored tunes thrillingly to life.
Almost every one of the album’s 16 tracks is a highlight but the tune that first caused me to stand up and take notice was the second song on the album, ‘Jimmie Standing in the Rain.’