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Old 12-19-2008, 05:03 PM   #31 (permalink)
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Armed Forces
Just wrapping up another listen of this album; some of the songs like Green Shirt are better then I remembered, but it is overall a rather inconsistent effort.

I wonder where Costello drew his inspiration from during the early years the transitions ins tyle and format from album to album are pretty random and very interesting.

Such an individual and creative artist, I even like his bad songs.
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Old 12-19-2008, 05:42 PM   #32 (permalink)
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Armed Forces was the album which first got me into Costello, but listening to it again it's just a little too polished really - spares too much effort in attempting to be contemporary, which was a bad move really. Oliver's Army is an absolute classic though.

His discography really is very diverse and interesting, it's been a whole barrel o' laughs reviewing it I know what you mean about liking his bad songs though - depending on my mood sometimes I actually find myself listening to them.
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Old 12-19-2008, 05:59 PM   #33 (permalink)
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For me it's a switch effect.

Like a light switch.

I listen to a song like "Oliver's Army" "What's so funny..." or "Watching the Detectives" and the next song comes on on the album or playlist and I never change it. Once I start Costello it usually goes at least 45 minutes.
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Old 12-19-2008, 06:07 PM   #34 (permalink)
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Amen to that. I go through patches when I don't listen to him, but I could go on for hours when I get an album on the go. Same goes for everyone I'd call a true great in music.
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Old 12-19-2008, 06:17 PM   #35 (permalink)
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What I have noticed with Costello is that he is not a dynamic performer or songwriter but this is a plus point. What at first seems unoriginal, even banal then turns into something exceptional. It's criminal that he is so overlooked. Especially here in Blighty.

One of the best threads on MB and a shining example of reined in fanboyism
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Old 12-19-2008, 09:48 PM   #36 (permalink)
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What I have noticed with Costello is that he is not a dynmaic performer or songwriter but this is a plus point. What at first seems unoriginal, even banal then turns into something exceptional. It's criminal that he is so overlooked. Especially here in Blighty.
Well said sir. Glad you like the thread too

I've finally gotten 'round to adding the Imperial Bedroom review. It's on page 3 of the thread
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Old 12-20-2008, 07:30 PM   #37 (permalink)
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King Of America [part 1]
1986, Demon Records, Ocean Way, Sunset Sound & Sound Factory Studio LA


Following several solo tours to pay his legal bills, for which it goes without saying that he dispensed with the Attractions as his backing band for the first time in his career, in 1985 Elvis Costello (armed with a new record deal and a host of new material) decided it was high time to take to the studio again. Considering the bad blood between him and the Attractions since he embarked on his solo tours, a completely new band was required. This came in the form of the Confederates; consisting of Jerry Scheff (bassist for Elvis Presley's TCB band), drummer Mickey Curry (who at the time was working for Tom Waits), keyboardist Mitchell Froom (who'd go on to make his name as a relatively big-time record producer) and producer Tom 'T-Bone' Wolk (once of Hall and Oates). A host of session musicians (including Travelling Wilbury Jim Keltner, David Hidalgo of Los Lobos and legendary double-bassist Ray Brown, among others) were called upon, as well as the Attractions themselves. However, the Attractions sessions disintegrated in a red mist of ill-temper, which yielded interesting results nonetheless.

Such an overhaul of personnel was the result of Costello's attempt to distance himself from his last two albums, in particular the critical and commercial flop that was Goodbye Cruel World. Seeing as that album at the very least hinted that Costello had burnt himself out artistically, the next logical move was to take a few steps back and make a more rootsy and uncluttered record. King Of America, with its overall laid back and friendly blues/folk and bluegrass vibes is exactly that. Basically, this album is the sound of Costello just casting off the shackles of recording for the benefit an expecting audience and simply writing and playing the music he loves. The result is a wonderfully passionate and stripped-down record.

1. Brilliant Mistake
The opening chords of the album alone are enough to prove that as well. This terrific opener is basically everything Goodbye Cruel World should have been - an earnest and stripped-down song where every element of the instrumentation just functions perfectly well in combination. On top of that it's a very well-structured and written song indeed, for which the lyrics provide the perfect opening statement about the album.

'He thought he was the king of America
Where they pour coca cola just like vintage wine
Now I try hard not to become hysterical
But I'm not sure if I am laughing or crying'
9/10

2. Lovable
Moving on we have a similarly simplistic and lively folk-flavoured cut which revolves around a rolling double-bass motif. Co-written with his new wife Cait O-Riordan (formerly the bassist of the Pogues), it's an intriguing and almost uplifting, romantic lyric set to a thigh-slappingly catchy musical backdrop, and certainly is a superb piece of work. 10/10

3. Our Little Angel
Much more country-flavoured than the songs before it, the pedal steel guitar opted for here gives what could have worked just as well as an acoustic strumfest a whole new and interesting dimension. Another fairly up-front and emotional lyric (I'll leave you to guess what lines like 'you're not gonna do a thing to our little angel' refer to) and, while maybe a bit in the acquired taste court, not a bad song at all. 7/10

4. Don't Let Me Be Misunderstood
One of two covers on show here, this re-reading of an Animals classic was thrown into the tracklisting at the minute at the behest of the record label, who wanted the safety of a cover to promote the album as its sole single. That certainly explains the presence of the marimba in the mix then. Certainly to some it may seem like the definition of a musical dud, but I personally think the unusual hoarseness of Costello's vocal gives it that much more of a gritty edge. 8/10

5. Glitter Gulch
The hyperactive pedal steel guitar which punctuates this song gives it a nice fast country tag for all to see. Another real footstomper here, though not exactly one of the best moments on show. The lyrics, concerning the events of a (fictional?) gameshow are another sign of Costello getting his groove back.

'Every step might be your last
Money signs are in your eyes sucker
You've been taken in this time
You might just get out alive if you're lucky
All the vultures tuning in to Glitter Gulch
Are looking in on you
And they're hungry'
7/10

6. Indoor Fireworks
A fairly provocative and melancholy folk song is led musically by Costello's acoustic strumming and Mitchell Froom's distant-sounding organ. It seems something of a weak moment at first, but nevertheless it's something of a grower, especially with its superb lyrical accompaniment.

'We play these parlour games
We play at make believe
When we get to the part where I say that I'm going to leave
Everybody loves a happy ending but we don't even try
We go straight past pretending
To the part where everybody loves to cry'
6/10


7. Little Palaces
And here we're launched right into bluegrass territory, as Costello proves to us that he's actual a terrific mandolin player (coming from someone who's learning, he is pretty good at the thing). Such a wonderfully gentle and upbeat bluegrass/folk song this, which edges along via some great acoustic guitar chords and a top vocal performance before Costello's mandolin bursts into the mix after each chorus. Sublime stuff. 10/10

8. I'll Wear It Proudly
Another gentle and earnest acoustic folk-rocker here, it basically serves as another statement of Costello's love for his new wife. Not all that much wrong with it musically, but it doesn't really stand out with much of an identity of its own, and is therefore one of the less memorable cuts. It is host to another great lyric though, particularly the chorus of 'if they had a king of fools then I would wear that crown, and you can all die laughing because I'll wear it proudly' though. 6/10

9. American Without Tears
The electric guitar chords which open this song up set the tone for a blissful, yarn-spinning folk song (apparently inspired by the adventures of Costello's grandfather), and the bursts of accordion after the choral refrains really do take it to another level. 9/10


10. Eisenhower Blues
Nothing much to this song really. It's basically just a workout for Elvis Costello and the Confederates in covering J.B. Lenoir's blues standard. Stands up well enough on its own though. 6/10

11. Poisoned Rose
Quite a remarkable cut this. Being a 30s-styled torch song, its only near relative in Costello's repertoire to that moment was the magnificent Almost Blue from Imperial Bedroom. Features one of the man's best vocal performances ever put to tape, a set of his most heart-breaking lyrics and is definitely a highlight. 9/10


12. The Big Light
This on the other hand is something of a sister-song to Glitter Gulch, being the up-tempo slice of country-flavoured rock that it is. A terrific, finger-snappin' tune compliments a superbly sleazy hangover lyric.
One of the best moments of the album, as it builds to a tremendous climax.
9/10

13. Jack Of All Parades
This song kind of rolls into view by use of a prominent double-bass line before Costello's opening line of 'when we first met I didn't know what to do, my old love lines were all worn out on you', after which the drumbeat just lights the whole thing up. Those opening 30-odd seconds alone make for a grand piece of songwriting, as the rest of the song just rolls along mid-tempo to its conclusion. One of few songs here which bears a lot in common with Costello's previous work. 9/10

14. Suit Of Lights
As does this one, being the only tune recorded with the Attractions which survived the chop. This fabulous number basically shows the Attractions on top form again, with Steve Nieve's piano leading the song to greatness with some well-thought performances by Bruce Thomas on bass and Pete Thomas behind the drumkit. A fantastic song, and one which instantly grabbed my attention as one when I first heard it. 10/10

15. Sleep Of the Just
Rolling in on the back of a ghostly-sounding organ, the gentle acoustic strumming, the brushes on the drums and a mesmerising lyric see this fantastic song and a great album to its conclusion. 10/10

Last edited by Bulldog; 02-17-2009 at 02:28 PM.
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Old 12-20-2008, 07:31 PM   #38 (permalink)
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[part 2]

The Outtakes.

Having It All: Another wonderful song this. It was originally considered for Julien Temple's Absolute Beginners but evidently never made it. I don't usually do this in this section, but here's a nice video of it.


End Of the Rainbow, Suffering Face and Deportee: All solo, acoustic demoes which never made the album sessions (the latter of which is a vastly superior revision of the Deportee's Club from Goodbye Cruel World.

King Of Confidence: Dropped from the tracklisting at the last minute to make way for Don't Let Me Be Misunderstood, this song really should have stayed where it was.

Shoes Without Heels: Another slower, country-tinged song, it's another marvellous track which, again, really should have made the album.

Betrayal, Next Time Round, Baby's Got a Brand New Hairdo and I Hope You're Happy Now: The other four songs which Costello attempted to record with the Attractions, they certainly sound far too new wave-afflicted and fast to warrant a place on the album.

So, summing up then...
As an artistic venture, getting in touch with his musical roots and hiring a completely new band and producer worked wonders for Costello. Although not the next logical step after Imperial Bedroom, it's miles better than the two rather tame albums which preceded it. Elvis Costello had officially got his groove back. It's probably not everyone's cuppa tea, but I couldn't recommend it enough to any folk, blues, bluegrass or country fans out there. Anyway...

9/10

Last edited by Bulldog; 12-24-2008 at 12:31 PM.
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Old 12-23-2008, 11:26 PM   #39 (permalink)
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Damn, I still have a lot of catching up to do here. Still need to get Get Happy!!. I'll give it a listen soon. I enjoyed reading most of it...Great reviews.
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Old 12-25-2008, 07:19 AM   #40 (permalink)
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Damn, I still have a lot of catching up to do here. Still need to get Get Happy!!. I'll give it a listen soon. I enjoyed reading most of it...Great reviews.
Good that you're enjoying the thread mate. There's more of this thing on the way, probably later today if I've got enough time to spare.
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