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Elvis Costello 

National Ransom (Hear/Concord)

Back up to an album a year, Costello seems to be tapping every unconscious notion. Each tune on National Ransom claims a time and place or ethos. For example, the jaunty strum “Slow Drag with Josephine” is set “Under the Napoleonic Code, 1921.” Huh? The most in-demand producer this year, T Bone Burnett somehow ties it together. For those who prize Elvis’s dense lyrics and eclectic nature, this is the album you’ve anticipated. For those who still find his singing an acquired taste, forget it. Even the time travel won’t redeem this. The title song, about money troubles big and small, rocks out best in a set that owes as much musically to 80 years ago as today.
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