Music Banter

Go Back   Music Banter > The MB Reader > Editors Pick
Register Blogging Search Today's Posts Mark Forums Read
Welcome to Music Banter Forum! Make sure to register - it's free and very quick! You have to register before you can post and participate in our discussions with over 70,000 other registered members. After you create your free account, you will be able to customize many options, you will have the full access to over 1,100,000 posts.

Reply
 
Thread Tools Display Modes
Old 01-28-2011, 01:43 PM   #191 (permalink)
why bother?
 
Bulldog's Avatar
 
Join Date: Sep 2008
Location: UK
Posts: 4,826
Default

Just thought I'd say this;


That's right, it's getting to the time that I should really be pressing on with this thread. So, here's a quick video and a heads-up to say that I'll be updating this thread over the next week with belated reviews of National Ransom and the National Ransack EP.

Watch this space!
Bulldog is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 02-01-2011, 11:02 AM   #192 (permalink)
why bother?
 
Bulldog's Avatar
 
Join Date: Sep 2008
Location: UK
Posts: 4,826
Default

So, this one's been a while in coming. I doubt it took the man himself this long to record tha bloody album Anyway, without further ado...

National Ransom
2010, Hear Music, Sound Emporium, Nashville TN


1. National Ransom
2. Jimmie Standing In the Rain
3. Stations Of the Cross
4. A Slow Drag With Josephine
5. Five Small Words
6. Church Underground
7. You Hung the Moon
8. Bullets For the New-Born King
9. I Lost You [Costello/Lauderdale]
10. Dr. Watson, I Presume
11. One Bell Ringing
12. The Spell That You Cast
13. That's Not the Part Of Him You're Leaving
14. My Lovely Jezebel [Costello/Burnett/Russel]
15. All These Strangers [Costello/Burnett]
16. A Voice In the Dark
17. I Hope [iTunes bonus track]

It's good to know that Elvis Costello's continuing to be so prolific even at his relatively old age. He has, after all, been a professional musician for 34 years, and a performer for even longer than that, and here he is releasing one album practically every year as of the last decade. It's all a very exciting time to be a fan of his, unlike certain other songwriters I'm a huge fan of *coughdavidbowiecough* So here we have his seventh album in the space of nine years. The fact that he continues to tour just as often as he appears on TV as well as recording gives me hope that one day soon I'll be able to actually see him live. The fact that I haven't already, despite having plenty of opportunities to do so, is one of those mysteries of life - like how black pudding's so tasty despite what's in it, or how two of the worst authors alive today are also two of the most successful of the last ten years (yes Steph Meyer and Dan Brown, I'm looking at you), and so on.

Anyway, when it came to recording this album, more or less the same strategies that saw 2009's Secret, Profane and Sugarcane pop out of the ether. Costello's long-time collaborator T-Bone Burnett was called back into the studio as producer. On top of this, Costello's touring band of the last couple of years was called back into the studio. That band was, of course, the Sugarcanes - consisting of Jim Lauderdale on guitar, Jerry Douglas on the dobro, mandolinist Mike Compton, violinist Stuart Duncan, Dennis Crouch playing the double bass and Jeff Taylor squeezing his accordion. In a new twist though, Costello's faithful backing band from his earlier days, the Imposters (the Attractions of the 21st century if you will) were also called in to give many of the songs a harder edge. Well, most of the Imposters anyway. The only place you'll hear bassist Davey Farragher at all is on Five Small Words. Otherwise, keyboardist Steve Nieve and drummer Pete Thomas are used more or less across the whole album. Whatever the ins and outs of the whole thing, a studio fitted and prepared, work began on the album last February, carrying on through to March.

The sound of National Ransom is pretty hard to pin down in a sentence, as saying there's a lot going on here stylistically would be a hell of an understatement. Such is one reason why this album may seem very hard to approach on the first, second or even third listens. I'll confess, I was no different when I first got hold of this. You've got hard hard rockers (My Lovely Jezebel), torch music (You Hung the Moon), bluegrass (Dr. Watson, I Presume), acoustic ballads (One Bell Ringing), swingers (a Voice In the Dark), vaudevillian-type tunes (Jimmie Standing In the Rain), and that's only half the story really. Basically, if you've got enough of this guy's music to picture every kind of music Costello's peddled over the last decade (well, except for blue-eyed soul or jazz which you won't find anywhere here, or the electronica of When I Was Cruel for that matter), picture the kind of album mashing them all together would create. That's what National Ransom is. If there is a dominant sound in spite of this album's eclectic nature, it's probably the Americana-tinged flavour of Secret, Profane and Sugarcane, although this time given to us via the backing of the traditional rock band that banged out Momofuku way back when in 2008 (the Imposters, of course).

How does it hold up then? I'll first say that when I first heard this album, I wasn't really blown away by it. In fact, you need only look back a couple of posts in this thread to see what I used to think of it. I said something like how I thought that National Ransom was impressive enough, but I didn't really like it as much as Secret, Profane and Sugarcane. I think my opinion of both has gone in opposite directions since then. These days, I only really listen to the same four or five tracks from the latter, whereas this one's really gone up in my estimations of late. I am, as you'll see from looking back over this thread, a huge fan of Costello's more eclectic and ambitious albums, such as Mighty Like a Rose. Costello's other unflinchingly eclectic masterpiece Spike just happens to be one of my favourite albums of all time. Basically, as with both of those albums, I put off forming a real opinion on it for a long time as even when I wasn't so impressed by it, I knew that just writing it off as nothing all that interesting would be doing a real injustice to its better songs. Momofuku was an album I knew was just adequate and nothing more from the first play-through. There's something golden below the surface of this one though, to the point that I agree with the man himself when he says that this is his best album in years. I wouldn't say it's better than the Delivery Man or the River In Reverse, but with those exceptions it's definitely his finest album since 1996's All This Useless Beauty.

In short, while a few duds like Five Small Words, the god-awful title track and All These Strangers weigh the album down a bit, songs like Church Underground, Bullets For the New-Born King, a Voice In the Dark and a Slow Drag With Josephine are already some of my favourite Costello songs ever. Given the kind of album this is, I'm sure more will emerge over time. All in all though, this is certainly among the better Costello albums you'll hear, and I can't wait to see what he's got up his sleeve for us next.

8/10




-------------------------------------------------------

National Ransack EP
2010, Hear Music, Nashville T
N

1. Poor Borrowed Dress [Costello/Lauderdale]
2. Condemned Man
3. Big Boys Cry [Raven]
4. I Don't Want To Go Home

And then there's this - a free digital EP given away with orders of copies of National Ransom via the album's official website, which saw a release on vinyl just in time for Christmas Day. It's quite the stocking filler as well as it's really, really impressive for what it is, ie an assortment of National Ransom outtakes bundled together in the interests of fan service. Overall, with the exception of the cover of Eddy Raven's (I've checked him him out - he's crap, although this cover's nice enough) Big Boys Cry the EP concentrates on Costello's new-found love for writing and playing bluegrass music, as I'm sure the below video will specify. In essence, I implore you to get this EP for the following four reasons:

1. If National Ransom's length and eclectic nature make it seem like you'd be biting off more than you can chew, if you get this you can say you have a 2010 Elvis Costello release like all the other cool kids.
2. This EP is a wonderful introduction to bluegrass music if you've never dipped your toes into it before.
3. The level of quality on this is far more consistent than on National Ransom.
4. I Don't Want To Go Home is now one of my five favourite Elvis Costello songs of all time.


Questions? Comments? Requests? I'll be happy to oblige
Bulldog is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 03-12-2011, 04:06 AM   #193 (permalink)
Music Addict
 
Join Date: Mar 2011
Posts: 936
Default

I've felt his first album is his best, though he did other good songs.
starrynight is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 03-27-2011, 08:11 AM   #194 (permalink)
Music Addict
 
Join Date: Aug 2006
Posts: 2,221
Default

Quote:
Originally Posted by Bulldog View Post
1977 - My Aim Is True 8/10
1978 - This Year's Model 8.5/10
1979 - Armed Forces 6/10
LOVE this thread. Costello has recently become my favourite artist ever.

I feel that a mere 6/10 for Armed Forces however is reprehensible. You seem to have a particular vendetta against that album that I don't feel fairly reflects its merits. Sure thing, I agree wholeheartedly that of EC's first five "proper" albums AF is certainly the weakest. But I can see no justification for saying it is anything less than "very good". AF should have been an 8. And This Year's Model, while a no-brainer 10/10 in my books, should at least have been a 9 in yours.

Shame! To shame!
Rainard Jalen is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 03-27-2011, 01:40 PM   #195 (permalink)
why bother?
 
Bulldog's Avatar
 
Join Date: Sep 2008
Location: UK
Posts: 4,826
Default

Quote:
Originally Posted by Rainard Jalen View Post
LOVE this thread. Costello has recently become my favourite artist ever.
Cheers pal. It's always good to know people actually read stuff I've done here.

So then, let's get to the meat of this eh

Quote:
Originally Posted by Rainard Jalen View Post
I feel that a mere 6/10 for Armed Forces however is reprehensible. You seem to have a particular vendetta against that album that I don't feel fairly reflects its merits. Sure thing, I agree wholeheartedly that of EC's first five "proper" albums AF is certainly the weakest. But I can see no justification for saying it is anything less than "very good". AF should have been an 8.
What I don't think I said in that review is that I didn't give that 6 to AF lightly. It was, after all, the first Costello album I ever bought, and thus the one that got me started towards collecting the discography, reading the books and eventually making this thread. As you can imagine, it's a very important album to me, even if I don't like it as much as other albums.

I know plenty of people love that album and that I'm in a minority with my take on it, but to me it suffers from the same key pitfall that a lot of other out-and-out stabs at a high chart position does, that being that the singles are fantastic but surrounded (mostly in this case) by more mediocre numbers. Busy Bodies, Chemistry Class, Green Shirt, Moods For Moderns - a few album-only cuts that I think drag the album down.

True, that review's going to be three years old come November, but I stand by giving it a 6 to this day.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Rainard Jalen View Post
And This Year's Model, while a no-brainer 10/10 in my books, should at least have been a 9 in yours.

Shame! To shame!
It would've been, but there are a lot of Costello albums I listen to more and prefer to it though. And I didn't really want to go around dishing out 9s and 10s with this thread any more like confetti than I already have. It's also worth mentioning that .5 ratings aren't a lot to do with any of that Pitchfork bollocks, but something I resort to when I'm too torn between two ratings to decide on one or the other.
Bulldog is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 03-27-2011, 05:21 PM   #196 (permalink)
Music Addict
 
Join Date: Aug 2006
Posts: 2,221
Default

Quote:
Originally Posted by Bulldog View Post
Cheers pal. It's always good to know people actually read stuff I've done here.

So then, let's get to the meat of this eh


What I don't think I said in that review is that I didn't give that 6 to AF lightly. It was, after all, the first Costello album I ever bought, and thus the one that got me started towards collecting the discography, reading the books and eventually making this thread. As you can imagine, it's a very important album to me, even if I don't like it as much as other albums.

I know plenty of people love that album and that I'm in a minority with my take on it, but to me it suffers from the same key pitfall that a lot of other out-and-out stabs at a high chart position does, that being that the singles are fantastic but surrounded (mostly in this case) by more mediocre numbers. Busy Bodies, Chemistry Class, Green Shirt, Moods For Moderns - a few album-only cuts that I think drag the album down.

True, that review's going to be three years old come November, but I stand by giving it a 6 to this day.


It would've been, but there are a lot of Costello albums I listen to more and prefer to it though. And I didn't really want to go around dishing out 9s and 10s with this thread any more like confetti than I already have. It's also worth mentioning that .5 ratings aren't a lot to do with any of that Pitchfork bollocks, but something I resort to when I'm too torn between two ratings to decide on one or the other.
Appreciate the reply, cheers.

Out of interest, on topic of AF, what's your view of Big Boys and Party Girl? I really think both of those songs are brilliant.

I agree that Green Shirt turned out to be a weak song on the album. I think that was unfortunate, as would you not agree that the acoustic demo version on the TYM extras is good stuff?
Rainard Jalen is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 03-28-2011, 09:05 AM   #197 (permalink)
why bother?
 
Bulldog's Avatar
 
Join Date: Sep 2008
Location: UK
Posts: 4,826
Default

Quote:
Originally Posted by Rainard Jalen View Post
Appreciate the reply, cheers.

Out of interest, on topic of AF, what's your view of Big Boys and Party Girl? I really think both of those songs are brilliant.

I agree that Green Shirt turned out to be a weak song on the album. I think that was unfortunate, as would you not agree that the acoustic demo version on the TYM extras is good stuff?
Along with Senior Service, Party Girl is easily my favourite non-single track on Armed Forces. It's just a really slick, smooth song, and that lyric's up there with my favourite that Costello's ever written - one of the finest, most miserable lovesongs I've ever heard. Big Boys is a very good song too, and doesn't sound bad by any stretch in its final presentation. I do think it would've benefitted more had it been recorded for This Year's Model though, as I reckon a punkier, more guitar-heavy method would've done it a world of good. Still a really good song all the same though.

And, yeah, Green Shirt's acoustic demo sounds much better than the version that made it onto Armed Forces. The latter version kinda stutters through its runtime, like the song's not really sure how it wants to deliver itself if you know what I mean. You can hear that there's a good song under the surface, but it really does sound very overproduced to me.

Another thing that bothers me about that album as a whole is that in Tiny Steps, Clean Money and Wednesday Week, there are some great songs that got left off it as well.
Bulldog is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 03-28-2011, 03:39 PM   #198 (permalink)
Music Addict
 
Join Date: Aug 2006
Posts: 2,221
Default

Quote:
Originally Posted by Bulldog View Post
Along with Senior Service, Party Girl is easily my favourite non-single track on Armed Forces. It's just a really slick, smooth song, and that lyric's up there with my favourite that Costello's ever written - one of the finest, most miserable lovesongs I've ever heard. Big Boys is a very good song too, and doesn't sound bad by any stretch in its final presentation. I do think it would've benefitted more had it been recorded for This Year's Model though, as I reckon a punkier, more guitar-heavy method would've done it a world of good. Still a really good song all the same though.

And, yeah, Green Shirt's acoustic demo sounds much better than the version that made it onto Armed Forces. The latter version kinda stutters through its runtime, like the song's not really sure how it wants to deliver itself if you know what I mean. You can hear that there's a good song under the surface, but it really does sound very overproduced to me.

Another thing that bothers me about that album as a whole is that in Tiny Steps, Clean Money and Wednesday Week, there are some great songs that got left off it as well.
Totally agree about Tiny Steps. I'd kinda wondered about that myself. At first I'd thought it was a non-album single or something. But I guess not. Either way, it's a hell of a lot better than Sunday's Best and Mood For Moderns.

I happen to think Busy Bodies has a great melody to it, though can understand your criticisms of the song.

As for Clean Money, I like that song a lot. Thankfully Elvis recycled its best lyrics for use on the brilliant Love For Tender. Similar to how he recycled Cheap Reward's lyrics on Lip Service.


OUT OF INTEREST, I'm having a lot of difficulty finding the full bonus track versions of Get Happy and Trust. As in, I could probably download them, but want the CDs. I have ONE of the bonus versions of Get Happy!, but want the HUGE one with the 50 tracks. That looks awesome. Have you heard it? I'm really curious about the demo versions of songs like Opportunity (such a great song). What is the Trust bonus disc like?


Every time I listen to Elvis I'll notice some brilliant lyric I never really noticed before. New Amsterdam: "Til I step on the breaks to get out of her clutches". What a f$cking clever piece of phrasemaking with the double meaning of clutch.

Eh. A bit of a schizophrenic message, but I just love Elvis so I say whatever pops into my head.
Rainard Jalen is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 03-29-2011, 04:39 PM   #199 (permalink)
why bother?
 
Bulldog's Avatar
 
Join Date: Sep 2008
Location: UK
Posts: 4,826
Default

Quote:
Originally Posted by Rainard Jalen View Post
Totally agree about Tiny Steps. I'd kinda wondered about that myself. At first I'd thought it was a non-album single or something. But I guess not. Either way, it's a hell of a lot better than Sunday's Best and Mood For Moderns.

I happen to think Busy Bodies has a great melody to it, though can understand your criticisms of the song.
Maybe Busy Bodies isn't so bad as a lot of other songs I could mention. I wouldn't say any of the Armed Forces tracks are, no matter how weak I think they are in comparison to, say, Oliver's Army, Two Little Hitlers, Peace Love & Understanding etc. Each song does have its merits, but one thing I've always disliked about Busy Bodies is that lyric. It just uses different kinds of wordplay to say the same thing - promiscuity wears you out. It wouldn't be so bad, but if the musical backing or melody isn't that strong (to me, anyway), it just comes off as a bit pompous and clever-clever if it comes across as just showing off like that, which is why I love the simplicity of the Party Girl lyric so much. Any bloke who's never felt like the character in that song simply hasn't lived.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Rainard Jalen View Post
As for Clean Money, I like that song a lot. Thankfully Elvis recycled its best lyrics for use on the brilliant Love For Tender. Similar to how he recycled Cheap Reward's lyrics on Lip Service.
If there's a positive to leaving Clean Money off AF, it's that it ended up as an even better song on a much better album. You'll often find Costello recycling his more obscure lyrics and musical ideas like that. There's one outtake from Trust called Twenty-Five To Twelve which gets revamped several times before it appears as the Invisible Man on Punch the Clock - not the best album it could've ended up on, unfortunately.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Rainard Jalen View Post
OUT OF INTEREST, I'm having a lot of difficulty finding the full bonus track versions of Get Happy and Trust. As in, I could probably download them, but want the CDs. I have ONE of the bonus versions of Get Happy!, but want the HUGE one with the 50 tracks. That looks awesome. Have you heard it? I'm really curious about the demo versions of songs like Opportunity (such a great song). What is the Trust bonus disc like?
Yeah, I've got all the double-disc reissues of the man's albums, and they're basically all worth the trouble of finding hard copies of if only for the sheer effort that's gone into them. There's an accompanying essay penned by Costello himself to each album from My Aim Is True up to All This Useless Beauty which are each very in-depth and anecdotal, and really give you your money's worth.

And that's not even taking all the demos and outtakes into account either. The Get Happy one's just great. To be honest I never really listen to the demos that much, but I can tell you that the demo for Black and White World is much better than the album version - one of the very few weak points on Get Happy. Two of the outtakes, namely Getting Mighty Crowded, Just a Memory and an absolutely gorgeous, slow-burning version of I Can't Stand Up For Falling Down are some of my favourite Costello songs ever.

Trust had some fantastic songs left off it, so you should definitely look out for that reissue too. There's a song on it called Sad About Girls which is my joint-favourite song that Costello's ever sung (along with Six-Fingered Man on the River In Reverse). Seriously, as a Costello fan, you just have to find a way of listening to it. I'd offer to upload them for you, but for some reason I only uploaded the actual outtakes from the sessions to my computer and didn't bother with the demos, and my hard copies are on the other side of the country! Nevertheless, if you want the bits of the package I've got on me at the moment, just let me know and I'll be happy to oblige.

You should definitely look into both those reissues those, as they're well worth it. The packages even make Costello's weaker albums like Goodbye Cruel World, Punch the Clock and Kojak Variety worth the fuss too, as I find myself listening to all the bonus material supplied waaaaaay more than the albums themselves.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Rainard Jalen View Post
Every time I listen to Elvis I'll notice some brilliant lyric I never really noticed before. New Amsterdam: "Til I step on the breaks to get out of her clutches". What a f$cking clever piece of phrasemaking with the double meaning of clutch.

Eh. A bit of a schizophrenic message, but I just love Elvis so I say whatever pops into my head.
I know the feeling
Bulldog is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 03-29-2011, 10:43 PM   #200 (permalink)
Music Addict
 
Join Date: Aug 2006
Posts: 2,221
Default

Quote:
Originally Posted by Bulldog View Post
I know the feeling
lol. Nobody but Elvis could make a pun based on manual transmission!!!


Oh, another song I loved: Wave A White Flag off of My Aim Is True outtakes. Is it just me or does it sound like one of those 50s musichall ditties... A really odd one in the Costello oeuvre. Great lyrics.
Rainard Jalen is offline   Reply With Quote
Reply

Thread Tools
Display Modes

Similar Threads



2003-2019 Advameg, Inc.

SEO by vBSEO 3.5.2 ©2010, Crawlability, Inc.