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Elvis Costello 

My Flame Burns Blue (Deutsche Grammophon)

These are trying times for Elvis Costello fans. For every return-to-rock record, Costello seems contractually obligated to go soft. We convince ourselves that his forays into lite-jazz and soft rock are temporary (and they usually are), but this is something far darker: the artist accompanied by an orchestra. This live document, recorded in 2004 with jazz orchestra Metropole Orkest, finds Elvis in fine voice but hampered by a somewhat plodding set list. Costello dusts off B-sides (a genuinely swinging "Almost Ideal Eyes") and a few fan favorites ("Almost Blue"), but too many times he falters on long, drawn-out notes when his spitfire delivery works much better. The orchestra may have chops (but the less said about the Mancini-fied "Watching the Detectives," the better). This record is almost a total wash, but stay strong, Costellophiles — we're still a few years away from Costello's Christmas Classics.

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