On the surface, a collaboration between Elvis Costello and the Roots seems like a novelty. After all, Costello did an album with Burt Bacharach, so there's a precedent for this sort of one-off indulgence.
But there is something that ties these two acts together. Though Costello and ?uestlove, the main creative forces behind Wise Up Ghost, are from different cultures and generations, both are serious music collectors. Costello once documented his picks for a "500 greatest albums ever" list in Vanity Fair, and Rolling Stone photographed ?uestlove in front of his personal collection of 70,000 vinyl records. To create Ghost, Costello sliced and diced lyrics from songs in his vast catalog to layer over grooves built by ?uestlove and producer Steven Mandel.
Though the record works overall, it drags a little from time to time. It would be nice to have a couple more tunes like the catchy opener, "Walk Us Uptown," but the album holds up over repeated listens. The more you play it, the more subtleties you'll find that illustrate why this collaboration isn't so unlikely after all.