Picks and Pans Review: For the Stars

updated 05/28/2001 AT 01:00 AM EDT

originally published 05/28/2001 AT 01:00 AM EDT

Anne Sofie von Otter and Elvis Costello
(Deutsche Grammophon)

In its original sense, the word "diva" had nothing to do with midriff-baring or assistant-berating. Anne Sofie von Otter is a diva in the true, goddess sense. Pairing Elvis Costello's nasal bray with the ethereal mezzo-soprano of this Swedish opera singer is like making a peanut butter-and-caviar sandwich, so writer-producer Costello wisely spends most of this disc with his mouth shut, framing von Otter's floral voice with a piano here, an accordion there, some strings there. At times the result has an aching beauty that proclaims what pop might be if only its clever tunesmiths could really sing.

To younger fans this collection, mostly obscure covers of work by the likes of Brian Wilson and ABBA, may seem music to grow old by; even the title seems to be nicked from an Andy Williams album ca. 1965. Still, try not to shiver at the late-night lounge version of the Beatles' "For No One" or the stirring Costello tune "No Wonder."

Bottom Line: Grown-ups will smile, kids will snooze

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