Elvis Costello & The Brodsky Quartet – The Juliet Letters (1993)

FrontCover1Declan Patrick McManus, OBE (born 25 August 1954), known professionally as Elvis Costello, is an English singer-songwriter. He has won multiple awards in his career, including Grammy Awards in 1999 and 2020, and has twice been nominated for the Brit Award for Best British Male Artist. In 2003, he was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. In 2004, Rolling Stone ranked Costello number 80 on its list of the 100 Greatest Artists of All Time.

Costello began his career as part of London’s pub rock scene in the early 1970s and later became associated with the first wave of the British punk and new wave movement that emerged in the mid-to-late 1970s. His critically acclaimed debut album My Aim Is True was released in 1977. Shortly after recording it, he formed the Attractions as his backing band. His second album This Year’s Model was released in 1978, and was ranked number 11 by Rolling Stone on its list of the best albums from 1967 to 1987. His third album Armed Forces was released in 1979, and features his highest-charting single, “Oliver’s Army” (number 2 in the UK). His first three albums all appeared on Rolling Stone’s list of the 500 Greatest Albums of All Time.

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Costello and the Attractions toured and recorded together for the better part of a decade, though differences between them caused a split by 1986. Much of Costello’s work since has been as a solo artist, though reunions with members of the Attractions have been credited to the group over the years. Costello’s lyrics employ a wide vocabulary and frequent wordplay. His music has drawn on many diverse genres; one critic described him as a “pop encyclopaedia”, able to “reinvent the past in his own image”. Since 2002, his touring band (featuring a rotating cast of musicians) has been known as The Imposters.

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Costello has co-written several original songs for films, including “God Give Me Strength” from Grace of My Heart (1996, with Burt Bacharach) and “The Scarlet Tide” from Cold Mountain (2003, with T-Bone Burnett). For the latter, Elvis was nominated (along with Burnett) for the Academy Award for Best Original Song and the Grammy Award for Best Song Written for Visual Media.

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The Juliet Letters is a studio album by the British rock singer and songwriter Elvis Costello.[5][6] It was released on compact disc as Warner Brothers 45180. The instrumental backing is provided by the Brodsky Quartet. Costello described the album as “a song sequence for string quartet and voice and it has a title. It’s a little bit different. It’s not a rock opera. It’s a new thing.” It peaked at No. 18 on the UK Albums Chart, and at No. 125 on the Billboard 200.

Costello first encountered the Brodsky Quartet in 1989, a performance at the Queen Elizabeth Hall of the entire cycle of string quartets by Dmitri Shostakovich. They met for the first time in November 1991, to begin work on the concept and execution of this album project. Costello viewed this album as neither his first stab at classical music, nor the Brodsky’s first attempt at rock and roll.

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With a concept of imaginary letters being sent to an imaginary recipient, Juliet Capulet, all five musicians contributed to the writing of the lyrics as well as the music. No overdubs were made, the album recorded in its entirety live in the studio. One single was actually released from the album, the track “Jacksons, Monk, and Rowe,” although it did not chart in either the United States or the UK.

The album was released initially on compact disc in 1993. As part of the Rhino Records reissue campaign for Costello’s back catalogue from Demon/Columbia and Warners, it was re-released in 2006 with 18 additional tracks on a bonus disc. The bonus disc included additional musicians to Costello and the Brodsky Quartet, with some tracks recorded live at the 1995 Meltdown Festival. This reissue is out of print; the album was reissued again by Universal Music Group after its acquisition of Costello’s complete catalogue in 2006.
Recordings and performances by other artists

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Several artists have either recorded or mounted productions of the song cycle. It was recorded by Canadian singer Kerry-Anne Kutz and the Abysse String Quartet in February 2006. In September 2006, husband-and-wife duo Michelle and David Murray released a new version arranged for voice and piano by David Murray. In 2008, Jake Endres and the Theatrical Musical Company produced the first fully staged theatrical performance of The Juliet Letters, complete with two additional original songs. The production opened in September 2008 in Minneapolis at the Southern Theater. In 2009, a Polish singer-actress Katarzyna Groniec translated the whole Juliet Letters material into Polish, recorded and released it as Listy Julii with a band of trombone, saxophone, clarinet, French horn, tuba, flute, keyboards, bass guitar, and drums. In 2016, The Sacconi Quartet and Jon Boden (former lead singer of the folk group Bellowhead) performed The Juliet Letters in St Martin’s Church, Colchester, as part of the Roman River Festival. In 2016 the Norwegian singer Charlott-Renee Clasén and Østfold string quartet also performed the concert piece. Voice department faculty of the Berklee College of Music performed the music with a student string quartet in a recital on 18 April 2019.(wikipedia)

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Looking back on it, it’s remarkable that Warner didn’t sue Elvis Costello for making deliberately noncommercial, non-representative records, the way Geffen did with Neil Young in the ’80s. After all, it’s not just that he made a record as anti-pop as Mighty Like a Rose, it’s that he followed it with a full-fledged classical album, The Juliet Letters — “a song sequence for string quartet and voice,” recorded with the Brodsky Quartet. It’s inspired by a Verona professor who responded to letters addressed to Juliet, of Romeo and Juliet fame, too. Given this history, it’s little wonder that the record didn’t storm the charts, but it is remarkable that Warner, even with their reputation for being an artist’s label, decided to release it, since this just doesn’t fit anywhere — not within pop (especially in the grunge-saturated 1993) and not within classical, either. Of course, that’s precisely what’s interesting about the record, and if interesting didn’t signify any rewards with Mighty, it does here.

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This is a distinctive, unusual affair that, at its best, effectively marries chamber music with Beatlesque art pop. And there are a number of moments that work remarkably well on the record, such as “I Almost Had a Weakness” and “Jacksons, Monk and Rowe.” True, these are the songs closest to straight-ahead Costello songs, yet they’re still nice, small gems, and even if the rest of the record can be a little arch and awkward, it’s not hard to admire what Costello and the Brodskys set out to do. And that’s the problem with the record — it’s easy to intellectualize, even appreciate, what it intends to be, but it’s never compelling enough to return to. More experiment than effective, then. (by Stephen Thomas Erlewine)

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Personnel:
Elvis Costello (vocals)
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The Brodsky Quartet
Ian Belton (violin)
Paul Cassidy (viola)
Jaqueline Thomas (cello)
Michael Thomas (violin)

Booklet05ATracklist:
01. Deliver Us (MacManus) 0.49
02. For Other Eyes (MacManus/Cassidy/J.Thomas) 2.55
03. Swine (MacManus/Cassidy) 2.09
04. Expert Rites (MacManus) 2.23
05. Dead Letter (Cassidy) 2.18
06. I Almost Had A Weakness (MacManus/M.Thomas) 3.53
07. Why? (MacManus/Belton) 1.26
08. Who Do You Think You Are? (MacManus/Ma. Thomas/Mi. Thomas) 3.29
09. Taking My Life In Your Hands (MacManus/J.Thomas/Ma. Thomas/Cassidy) 3.20
10. This Offer Is Unrepeatable (MacManus/Cassidy/Belton/J. Thomas/Mi. Thomas) 3.12
11. Dear Sweet Filthy World (MacManus/Belton/Ma. Thomas) 4.17
12. The Letter Home (MacManus/Belton/Cassidy) 3.11
13. Jacksons, Monk And Rowe (MacManus/J. Thomas/Mi. Thomas) 3.43
14. This Sad Burlesque (MacManus/Cassidy) 2.47
15. Romeo’s Seance (MacManus/Ma. Thomas/Mi. Thomas) 3.33
16. I Thought I’d Write To Juliet (MacManus) 4.08
17. Last Post (Mi. Thomas/Traditional) 2.24
18. The First To Leave (MacManus) 4.59
19. Damnation’s Cellar (MacManus) 3.25
20. The Birds Will Still Be Singing (MacManus) 4.28

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The official website:
Website

Various Artists – Concerts For The People Of Kampuchea (1981)

FrontCover1 During the four nights after Christmas in 1979, a number of musicians got together at the Hammersmith Odeon in England for a series of benefit concerts to provide famine relief to the victims of Pol Pot’s Khmer Rouge regime in Cambodia. The event was organized by Paul McCartney and Kurt Waldheim (who was then Secretary-General of the U.N.), and it involved older artists such as McCartney and the Who as well as younger new wave acts like the Clash and the Pretenders. A 2-LP set titled Concerts for the People of Kampuchea was issued in 1981, containing selected highlights from the four evenings. It’s good to have some historical document of this event. Although the album isn’t the best of its kind, it does capture an interesting moment in rock history.

ConcertProgrameSide One is owned by the Who, who reportedly played a three-hour set on the third night. The four songs contained here are well-played by the post-Keith Moon quartet. It’s not exactly a Live At Leeds-class performance, but it’s respectable enough. A good performance of the then-timely “Sister Disco” makes this set unique.

Side Two contains three songs by the Pretenders (the original lineup, no less) and one from Elvis Costello. It’s good to hear lively performances by these new wave icons in their prime, but the high points of this side are the two rollicking numbers by Rockpile, featuring Nick Lowe and Dave Edmunds. Their guest vocalist on “Little Sister” is none other than Robert Plant, doing his best Elvis impersonation.

Side Three demonstrates the difficulty of doing justice to so many artists within the constraints of an LP, as it allows only one song apiece for four of the acts. Queen had the first night of the event to themselves, but they are only represented by one long song. The Clash’s set could probably have been represented by a better song than “Armagideon Time”, though the song is appropriately solemn for the occasion. It’s more fun to hear Ian Dury’s goofy “Hit Me With Your Rhythm Stick” and the Specials’ droll “Monkey Man”. The latter is a reminder of the 1979 ska revival in England.

Side Four showcases McCartney’s exploits during the fourth and final evening, first with three Wings songs, and then with three bombastic numbers by Rockestra, a McCartney-led jam of at least twenty English rockers. (The credited list appears at the bottom of this page). The “Rockestra Theme” won a Grammy for Best Rock Instrumental Performance. This is definitely a unique moment that is interesting to hear and see. Unfortunately, the documentary Rock For Kampuchea has never been released on DVD. But, thanks to YouTube, the “Rockestra Theme” footage is embedded below:

Booklet1 Whereas George Harrison had his all-star charity concert for the people of Bangladesh, Paul McCartney had this December, 1979 series of concerts in Hammersmith Odeon to raise money for the victims of Pol Pot’s reign of terror in Cambodia. It was a meeting of the old guard (McCartney, the Who) and the new (the Clash, Ian Dury, the Pretenders, Elvis Costello), and those in the middle (Queen) who could sneak in. The audio quality is shabby; nothing leaps out as being more sonically interesting than a live radio broadcast, and the performances are okay but not staggering. the Who — with a full side devoted to them — deliver their usual stadium set (edited from a three-hour performance). Queen, on the other hand, who similarly had a full night to themselves, get one song. Of most interest in terms of rockstar-watching is the “Rockestra,” a supergroup of the musicians from all three nights. Before the infamous Rock and Roll Hall of Fame superstar jams, here’s about 30 rockers plowing away at “Lucille” and “Let It Be” in front of thousands of awestruck fans. Of archival interest mostly: I guess you had to be there. (by Ted Mills)

DVDCoverPersonnel (Rockestra):

Piano: Paul McCartney
Keyboards: Linda McCartney, Tony Ashton, Gary Brooker
Guitars: Denny Laine, Laurence Juber, James Honeyman-Scott, Dave Edmunds, Billy Bremner, Pete Townshend, Robert Plant
Bass: Paul McCartney, Bruce Thomas, Ronnie Lane, John Paul Jones
Drums, Percussion: Steve Holley, Kenney Jones, Tony Carr, Morris Pert, Speedy Acquaye, John Bonham
Horns: Howie Casey, Steve Howard, Thaddeus Richard, Tony Dorsey
Vocals: Paul McCartney, Linda McCartney, John Paul Jones, Ronnie Lane, Bruce Thomas, Robert Plant

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Tracklist:

The Who:
01. Baba O´Riley (Townshend) 5.22
02. Sister Disco (Townshend) 5.22
03. Behind Blue Eyes (Townshend) 3.41
04. See Me, Feel Me (Townshend) 6.02

Pretenders:
05. The Wait (Hynde/Farndon) 3.32
06. Precious (Hynde) 3.27
07. Tattooed Love Boys (Hynde) 3.23

Elvis Costello & The Attractions:
08. The Imposter (Costello) 2.15

Rockpile:
09. Crawling From The Wreckage (Parker) 3.06
10. Littler Sister (with Robert Plant)(Pomus/Shuman) 3.34

Queen:
11. Now I´m Here (May) 7.00

The Clash:
12. Armagideon Time (Bennett)

Ian Dury & The Blockheads:
13, Hit Me With Your Rhythm Stick (Dury/Jankel)

The Specials:
14. Monkey Man (Hibbert) 4.17

Paul McCartney & Wings:
15. Got To Get You Into My Life (Lennon/McCartney) 3.06
16. Every Night (MyCartney) 4.23
17. Coming Up (McCartney) 4.15

Rockestra:
18. Lucille (Collins/Penniman) 3.08
19. Let It Be (Lennon/McCartney) 4.14
20. Rockestra Theme (McCartney) 2.37

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The Chieftains – The Wide World Over (2002)

FrontCover1In the Chieftains’ four decades of recording, they’ve changed labels a handful of times, and each label has seen fit to record at least one or two collections of the band’s output under their tenure. At this point they have so many best-ofs and greatest-hits compilations, it’s tough for the listener to know the best of what they’re actually hearing. New millennium — new collection: the band’s longtime label, RCA Victor, has done the Celtic community a favor by releasing a collection that deals more with the band’s journey through their different phases as opposed to trying to reassemble a hits package. The end result is almost like listening to a radio station that only plays Chieftains songs. There are some live tracks, their countrified romp through “Cotton-Eyed Joe”; Van Morrison’s adult-contemporary “Shenandoah”; an unusual introduction of the bandmembers in Chinese; appearances from Sting, Diana Krall, and Art Garfunkel; and a couple of new recordings. The breezy cover of “Morning Has Broken” fares better than the hybridized “Redemption Song” (in fact, it’s a challenge to think of any instances of a successful Celtic/reggae alloy). The album will be enjoyed by Chieftains fans as a fun collection of songs they have never heard back-to-back before, and those looking for a greatest-hits collection will have plenty of other places to look. (by Zac Johnson)

Inside1Personnel:
Derek Bell (cláirseach, oboe, keyboards, tiompán, vocals)
Kevin Conneff (bodhrán, vocals)
Martin Fay (fiddle, bones, vocals)
Seán Keane (fiddle, tin whistle, vocals)
Matt Molloy (flute, tin whistle, vocals)
Paddy Moloney (uilleann pipes, tin whistle, button accordion, bodhrán, vocals)
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Anúna (vocals)
Jean Butler (dancer)
Ry Cooder (electric guitar, mandocello)
Elvis Costello (vocals)
Art Garfunkel (vocals)
Diana Krall (vocals, piano)
Ziggy Marley (vocals, guitar, percussion)
Joni Mitchell (vocals)
Van Morrison (vocals)
Carlos Nunez (bagpipe)
Sinéad O’Connor (vocals)
Linda Ronstadt (vocals)
Ricky Skaggs (vocals)
Don Was (percussion)
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Belfast Harp Orchestra
Chinese Ensemble
Cincinnati Pops Orchestra conducted by Erich Kunzel
Los Lobos
The Corrs
The Rolling Stones

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Tracklist:
01. March Of The King Of Laois (Traditional) 4.25
02. The Foggy Dew (feat: Sinéad O’Connor) (Traditional) 5.01
03. I Know My Love (feat: The Corrs) (Traditional) 3.27
04. Cotton-Eyed Joe (feat: Ricky Skaggs) (Traditional) 2.45
05. The Magdalene Laundries (feat: Joni Mitchell) (Mitchell) 4.57
06. Live from Matt Molloy’s Pub (Traditional) 2.21
07. Shenandoah (feat: Van Morrison) (Traditional) 3.52
08. The Munster Cloak (Traditional) 6.12
09. Morning Has Broken (feat: Art Garfunkel / Diana Krall) (Traditional) 2.55
10. Morning Dew /Women Of Ireland (P.Moloney) 2.57
11. Mo Ghile Mear (feat: Sting) (P.Moloney/Traditional) 3.20
12. Carolan’s Concerto (feat: Belfast Harp Orchestra) (Traditional) 3.02
13. Guadalupe (feat: Los Lobos / Linda Ronstadt) (Traditional) 3.31
14. Full Of Joy (feat: Chinese Ensemble) (Traditional) 3.24
15. Here’s A Health To The Company (Traditional) 3.03
16. Chasing the Fox (feat: Erich Kunzel / Cincinnati Pops Orchestra) (P.Moloney/ Traditional) 4.11
17. Long Journey Home (Anthem) (feat: Anúna / Elvis Costello) (Costello/P.Moloney) 3.20
18. The Rocky Road To Dublin (feat: The Rolling Stones) (Traditional) 4.17
19. Redemption Song (feat: Ziggy Marley) (B.Marley) 4.22

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