Elvis Costello: Classic or Dud

Message Bookmarked
Bookmark Removed
Crafty, insightful, heart-rending word and songsmithery or speccy, no-mates, mannered-voice wankery? YOU decide.

Venga, Wednesday, 23 May 2001 00:00 (twenty-one years ago) link

Ah yes: Dud! Crap voice, crap songs and indeed very boring. Nothing really interesting to add in the way of insults.

Omar, Wednesday, 23 May 2001 00:00 (twenty-one years ago) link

Classic without doubt. Brilliantly twisted pop songs, and a voice like a velvet razor. It's late. I'll have more to say on this tomorrow.

Melissa W, Wednesday, 23 May 2001 00:00 (twenty-one years ago) link

Although clearly wretched for the last 15 years or so, I have to say classic for "This Year's Model" and to a lesser extent "Get Happy!" and "Imperial Bedroom".

Dr. C, Wednesday, 23 May 2001 00:00 (twenty-one years ago) link

This seems a good opportunity to mention that Tanya's archives have been restored to life. Here she is on EC .

Me? I liked him for a very long time. But I'm not sure how much I do now. I'll have a think and get back to you.

Tom, Wednesday, 23 May 2001 00:00 (twenty-one years ago) link

I heartily agree with Dr.C, although I'd like to add ARMED FORCES to his list under "classic."

alex in nyc, Wednesday, 23 May 2001 00:00 (twenty-one years ago) link

Classic, no doubt. Now that he's a veteran rock star, though, so he can do whatever he wants. I must admit he hasn't impressed me with any of his projects in some time.

Armando, Wednesday, 23 May 2001 00:00 (twenty-one years ago) link

"Classic" seems to imply "dead" to me. I like Elvis Costello. Of course hes had his moments of barf, but on the whole I can't see why anyone wouldn't lik ehis music. Maybe people wouldlike his stuff more if it was sung by Bono or someone with more sex appeal and a singing voice. I used to think he was a bit lacking in innovation as far as his sound, but if you listen to "MIghty LIke A ROse" , its really experimental and odd. Not so good though, but still he tried. I guess hes what happens if you cross a nerd with Bob Dylan with Henry Macicni with....oh nevermind. I have become tedius.

Mike Hanley, Wednesday, 23 May 2001 00:00 (twenty-one years ago) link

EC gets an amazingly bad press. My perspective on EC is - no, maybe I have perspectives, plural, on EC. Let's see:

1. Encountering him in 80s childhood: the almost capuccino-pop textures (I may be off the mark there) and heavy wordy satire of Punch The Clock seeped into me and made it my favourite EC LP for ever amen.

2. His eternal 'returns' and reinventions... come the end of the 80s I get mildly more clued up and start to work out how EC's career fits together, what he's been up to, what are the highs and lows... I decide, roughly, that he is pretty much a genius. People have said before that 'genius' is an unhelpful term, and I agree that it tells you little save that I admire EC. But what I mean is, a) I think he is the most accomplished lyricist in the history of pop over the last 40 or so years - at least amongst what I have heard. b) he is able to be comic and serious, elaborately tongue-in-cheek or straight-out sincere (but maybe I shouldn't exaggerate the range here - I'm not sure, I think there is an 'EC mode' somewhere). c) he is able to dip in and out of genres with rare distinction and understanding; he always shows huge (even excessive?) respect for the genres he uses. (This makes for a slight difference with Merritt, who clearly loves lots of the genres he essays but is still less 'respectful' towards them.) d) He has a rare melodic gift which gets rather eclipsed by his even rarer lyrical gift; he reminds me of McCartney, really. So, classic, classic, classic.

3. But hang on. I don't actually *listen* to EC that much. I have to admit that for all his brilliance, he's not always what I want to hear. Possibly there's a certain lack of... 'lightness' in his work - he's so 'full-on' about everything that I can't quite see him pulling off the nonchalant grace of, say, 'Ask', 'Here's Where The Story Ends' or 'The Saddest Story Ever Told'.

4. Then again - his 1998 collaboration with Bacharach, Painted From Memory, seems to me magnificent. Lyrical simplicity yet point; fabulous melodic dynamism; lush arrangements. From my particular POV, one of the most vital records of the last 10 years, and a great highlight of EC's entire career. In the end, I can only admire this fellow.

the pinefox, Wednesday, 23 May 2001 00:00 (twenty-one years ago) link

pinefox, i think we've found our common ground. we're likely bound together for eternity as the only ilm posters who will readily admit an unabashed love for painted from memory.

fred solinger, Wednesday, 23 May 2001 00:00 (twenty-one years ago) link

Wait, I like Painted from MEmory. AT least most of it. AT times I feel liek it could have been produced better though. It sounds too LA for me, too modern. I like Bacharach's olde tyme stuff better, where the recourdings have no less bass. True som e of the songs on PFM are gross, (The Long Division) but who can deny the overall catchiness an d pop apeal of the rest? Leave it to these two to make pop music that is at once trite/candy and dark/dramatic.

Mike Hanley, Wednesday, 23 May 2001 00:00 (twenty-one years ago) link

Well, he was on the final episode of "3rd Rock" last night, so he's got to be good! I like a lot of his stuff, but I really hate some of it. "Veronica" pisses me off.

, Wednesday, 23 May 2001 00:00 (twenty-one years ago) link

I liek Veronica. WHat's with Sting lately? Appearing on Ally MC Beal to sing "every Breath You Take? Going to Madonnas wedding? Is the same guy who wrote "Darkness" and "Walking on the Moon" ? I really have a special place in my heart for the Police, but egad, what has happened to the man? I hope Elvis COstello doesnt becoem liek him.

Mike Hanley, Wednesday, 23 May 2001 00:00 (twenty-one years ago) link

I hope Elvis Costello licks Sting.

proton, Wednesday, 23 May 2001 00:00 (twenty-one years ago) link

It would be fun to see Elvis COstello and Sting in a xxx film. Especially if Liz Taylor was watching in the backgruond and Michal Jackson was trying to mount her

Mike Hanley, Wednesday, 23 May 2001 00:00 (twenty-one years ago) link

All of a sudden a boring thread (since the subject is fairly boring) has become brilliant.

I'll have to combine this with the 'records never played' answer. Somehow I have a near complete EC collection and I've never listened to any of it!

My favorite quote about him came from Bernard Sumner, god among men:

Interviewer: "What do you think of wordsmiths like Elvis Costello?"

Sumner: *deep breath* "Don't talk to me about that overrated fucking jerk."


Ned Raggett, Wednesday, 23 May 2001 00:00 (twenty-one years ago) link

Another fine EC quote from ILM-er Taylor Parkes: "Most music journalists like Elvis Costello because most music journalists look like Elvis Costello."


Venga, Wednesday, 23 May 2001 00:00 (twenty-one years ago) link

I think it was David Lee Roth made that crack first...

Andrew L, Wednesday, 23 May 2001 00:00 (twenty-one years ago) link

yes, that's a popular crack. it probably dates back to bob dylan. the most recent artist i've heard it applied to is beck. but what can you do when it's so true?

fred solinger, Wednesday, 23 May 2001 00:00 (twenty-one years ago) link

Point and laugh?

proton, Wednesday, 23 May 2001 00:00 (twenty-one years ago) link

I don't think that those supposedly good quotations are good at all. I think they're rubbish, and that Sumner and Parkes - talent though they may have for the particular things they do - are not really fit to wash EC's guitar.

the pinefox, Wednesday, 23 May 2001 00:00 (twenty-one years ago) link

This implies somebody would *want* to wash EC's guitar. I'm content to let it rot away. As it is, Sumner has more soul in his 'soulless' voice than EC does for all his gurning and straining and stultifying reverence for the past. Taylor, meanwhile, is cool, and that's enough. ;-)

Ned Raggett, Wednesday, 23 May 2001 00:00 (twenty-one years ago) link

I recently got the Album Revenge :One True Passsion. Peter Hook sings just liek Bernard Sumner.

Mike Hanley, Wednesday, 23 May 2001 00:00 (twenty-one years ago) link

I'm not sure that Bernard Sumner is in any kind of position to be calling people overrated.

Ned - it must be really cool to have a complete collection of records by people you dislike.

I wouldn't mind looking like Beck, or even Elvis Costello, but I guess that just proves David Lee Roth's point - but I'm not a critic, so maybe it's OK.

Patrick, Wednesday, 23 May 2001 00:00 (twenty-one years ago) link

It's *bizarre*, is what it is. I think they're around in some sort of attempt to convince myself that one day I'll like them more than I do, which right now is...not much. For all my bile (which I still think is well deserved towards him), I don't outright hate his stuff, I think it just might succeed better if done by others, same way I feel about Dylan. Except I won't have Dylan in the house and clearly I have all this EC stuff lying around. It must mean *something*.

Ned Raggett, Wednesday, 23 May 2001 00:00 (twenty-one years ago) link

I think it is a sign that you should send me Elvis Costello CDs so I can see if I like him, Ned.

Josh, Wednesday, 23 May 2001 00:00 (twenty-one years ago) link

To EC's admirers: You have to admit, despite its pithiness, that Sumner's response was entirely justified. Can you imagine how many times the man had been asked questions like "What do you think of WORDSMITHS like Elvis Costello?..." with the unstated but implied "...since YOU are so completely far from a wordsmith that you must be dripping with jealousy towards this lyrical genius!"

I find Sumner's voice far more compelling than EC's; like Ned, lyrics to me are not the be-all-end-all qualification for "good vocals." (Even though I'd take Sumner's lyrics over EC's...) But I can see why people like EC; he does have a knack for a hook (but so does Sumner--no pun intended ;-)--but I must say, I have two of his records, and I hardly listen to them, ever.

Dylan I like, though. He sounds quite fragile ("Har-har-har, that's 'cause he can't sing in tune!" NOT FUNNY, CLICHE-WIELDING ASSHOLES!), as opposed to EC, who comes across to me as pretty smug a lot of the time. Of course, Bright Eyes sounds fragile, and I don't know if I could name one vocalist whose teeth I'd rather kick in...

Clarke B., Wednesday, 23 May 2001 00:00 (twenty-one years ago) link

I have two of Costello's records, that is... sorry about the jumbled punctuation and ambiguous pronouns.

Clarke B., Wednesday, 23 May 2001 00:00 (twenty-one years ago) link

Bernard Sumner and Elvis Costello BOTH get by not on being majestic voices of beauty but rather projecting a personality.

Mike Hanley, Wednesday, 23 May 2001 00:00 (twenty-one years ago) link

barney has a personality?

fred solinger, Wednesday, 23 May 2001 00:00 (twenty-one years ago) link

Yes. He comes across to me as a depressed, peachy, preppie sort of insecure type. At times bitchy yet always revealin g his inner vulnerability. " I kno w, you know, we belive in the land of love"

Mike Hanley, Wednesday, 23 May 2001 00:00 (twenty-one years ago) link

Maybe you're right about them both getting by on projecting a personality, Mike. It might be the case I just like Sumner's personality better than Costello's--at least the way it comes across on record. There's always been something a bit sinister and unsettling (not in a good way) in EC's voice to me, and if I could pin down exactly what that is, I'd probably be better off. Lemme think on that one...

Clarke B., Wednesday, 23 May 2001 00:00 (twenty-one years ago) link

I want to marry Tanya. That was some funny mocking.

My Aim Is True is a great record that took me a long time to get into. In fact, it's one of my favourites, despite the pub-rock backing group. I always thought they were the perfect band for the 50s Punk Buddy Holly thing he was being marketed as at the time. The lyrics are great, too: "now that your picture's in the paper / being rhythmically admired"? Brilliance. I haven't listened to any of his other stuff except "Pump It Up" and "I Don't Want To Go To Chelsea" and "Veronica" and they're all good too. Hey Ned, how much for the collection?

Dave M., Wednesday, 23 May 2001 00:00 (twenty-one years ago) link

i find ec's voice quite compelling and engaging; it has color and there are certain songs of his that i can't imagine another singing because of the way he tackles it.

that said, he's not luther vandross and when he sings out of his range, it's at best endearing, at worst really, really, really bad.

i like e.c. because he's got a lot of pop smarts, see for example his nicks of everyone from abba to stax. i can listen to him rather than, say, dylan because not only does he have fine lyrics but he takes an active interest in the recording process and is an underrated melodist.

fred solinger, Wednesday, 23 May 2001 00:00 (twenty-one years ago) link

Rhino is doing a whole reissue of Costello's back catalog, so everything should be readily available again soon

JC, Wednesday, 23 May 2001 00:00 (twenty-one years ago) link

I hate Elvis Costello because I was named after one of his bloody songs. Fuck that. Doesn't stop me from keeping all his albums, but jesus, naming after a song is a dud.

Ally, Wednesday, 23 May 2001 00:00 (twenty-one years ago) link

Sorry, not for sale. I await the day I understand. ;-)

Ned Raggett, Wednesday, 23 May 2001 00:00 (twenty-one years ago) link

I never offered to pay you for them, Ned. ;)

Josh, Wednesday, 23 May 2001 00:00 (twenty-one years ago) link

No, but Dave M did. So ha. ;-)

Ned Raggett, Wednesday, 23 May 2001 00:00 (twenty-one years ago) link

I reckon Clarke B. is on the money here with a couple of his points. Firstly, Barney Sumner may not be the world's best lyricist but in terms of music Costello isn't fit to press the demo button on New Order's drum machine. And secondly, the Bright Eyes singer has got the most kickable voice this side of Alanis Morissette. It's even worse when you see him live and he's emoting through his artfully positioned floppy fringe.

Richard Tunnicliffe, Wednesday, 23 May 2001 00:00 (twenty-one years ago) link

I look nothing like Elvis Costello, except, for perhaps, except for my glasses. But I love him nonetheless. The early stuff (through Imperial Bedroom) is magnificent. Trust, in particular, has the cleverness-as-dodge arise into a theme of its own, and I find that very emotionally powerful and resonant. Almost Blue is notable only for "Good Year For The Roses" but oh what a track it is. Armed Forces has some of the best inner-sleve artwork, ever, and careens between overdone wordplay, earnest emotion, and cutting lines like "she has a chemistry class, I want a piece of her... mind" which I adore. Blood & Chocolate, and King of America are both standout albums, but he really comes back with Brutal Youth whose tunes are so well crafted as to be nearly unforgettable. I mean, the content is take-or-leave-it lyrically, with some very notable exceptions, but the music is always top-notch.

Sterling Clover, Thursday, 24 May 2001 00:00 (twenty-one years ago) link

Mike, the reason Sting doesn't write songs like "Darkness" anymore is that Stewart Copeland actually wrote that one.

tarden, Thursday, 24 May 2001 00:00 (twenty-one years ago) link

I think it is bizarre to claim that Sumner or Parkes are more talented than EC. I can hardly believe that anyone really believes that.

the pinefox, Thursday, 24 May 2001 00:00 (twenty-one years ago) link

i don't really have any interest in who is the most talented. but i know the following...

1. i would much much rather listen to new order than elvis costello.

2. i would rather read taylor parkes than listen to elvis costello.

gareth, Thursday, 24 May 2001 00:00 (twenty-one years ago) link

Tarden really? Shit! NO wonder. He also wrote "Oh mY GOd" which is marvelous IMO. BUt I assuem his post Police stuff has been rot.

Mike Hanley, Thursday, 24 May 2001 00:00 (twenty-one years ago) link

I'm not interested in measuring talent, pinefox, that's a slippery slope of biased judgment. I *am* interested in saying that New Order mean a hell of a lot more to me than someone who's been bemoaning the 'death of proper songwriting' or whatever since 1975.

Ned Raggett, Thursday, 24 May 2001 00:00 (twenty-one years ago) link

Really Ned ? Does Elvis Costello complain about that, or is it just something about his image that makes you think he would ?

Patrick, Thursday, 24 May 2001 00:00 (twenty-one years ago) link

my only concern is that ned calls bernard sumner "god among men." i mean, _up_ and _closer_ were #1 and #13 on my 40-records list and _1981/1982_ was on there too but the man who sang "i saw some people look down on me/i hope they like what they see" a divine being? possibly understandable if you were talking about peter hook but only possibly.

sundar subramanian, Thursday, 24 May 2001 00:00 (twenty-one years ago) link

See also: my comments about his rapping on the electronic/electronica thread. No one who can rap that poorly can be considered a god -- he's not even in the Ben/Glory category.

Nicole, Thursday, 24 May 2001 00:00 (twenty-one years ago) link

Based on some of the interviews I've read over time (hey, I even read RATM interviews at points, I like seeing what they're going to come up with next to amuse me), he pretty much says as much. I recall one piece from around the time of _Spike_ or the like where he compares acid house's then explosion in the UK to the punk scene when he started, but then complained about both that most of what would be released wouldn't last the test of time. The implicit comparison was that he on the other hand was Crafting Lasting Quality. Yawn.

Ned Raggett, Thursday, 24 May 2001 00:00 (twenty-one years ago) link

You Bowed Down

gin and catatonic (Ye Mad Puffin), Saturday, 6 November 2021 00:11 (nine months ago) link

Good song

So who you gonna call? The martini police (Alfred, Lord Sotosyn), Saturday, 6 November 2021 02:13 (nine months ago) link

My mistake, but yes, good song!

birdistheword, Saturday, 6 November 2021 02:26 (nine months ago) link

Anyone seem him on this tour? Worth seeing him for the first time?

DT, Saturday, 6 November 2021 04:10 (nine months ago) link

Apparently good, as usual. I think Charlie Sexton is sitting in on guitar? Dylan just started touring again, so I guess that means Sexton is no longer in that particular crew.

Josh in Chicago, Saturday, 6 November 2021 12:26 (nine months ago) link

Yeah, it's been confirmed Dylan had to replace Sexton.

birdistheword, Saturday, 6 November 2021 15:30 (nine months ago) link

Alright, I'll try to win tickets or check for last-minute deals next Saturday.

DT, Sunday, 7 November 2021 21:57 (nine months ago) link

four months pass...

I played GET HAPPY !! this week for the first time in full, though I've known bits of the LP for decades.

It's marvellous.

One thing I like is how the relatively well known songs - 'new amsterdam', 'high fidelity', 'I can't stand up' - are in the middle of the 20 songs, so for a long time it's fronting up with relatively obscure numbers; some of which I barely knew.

It's a Motown / 60s beat pastiche, I suppose, very well enough done for my ears; but also at times an exercise in Ska, and one song maybe country-soul?

I greatly admire EC's craftsmanship in writing and arranging the songs, and the way that again and again and again he inserts a tremendous little couplet, phrase, pun, barbed sequence into the words - usually about 3 per song.

One other note, not a new thought, is the prevalence of cultural history in the lyrics - the sense of animating a history of eg: noir motifs, old movies. At times ('motel matches', 'black and white world') maybe this is explicitly reflected on? (Well, I'm assuming there that 'black and white world' refers to film, but actually I'm not sure it does.)

I've been back into EC a lot lately. Properly 'discovering' this LP after so long deepened this experience.

the pinefox, Wednesday, 23 March 2022 20:26 (four months ago) link

I like Froom's drum sound a lot, particularly on BY.

akm, Wednesday, 23 March 2022 22:37 (four months ago) link

Hoover Factory on Get Happy, I could listen to that over and over again, it might be my favourite EC song.

Chuck_Tatum, Thursday, 24 March 2022 23:27 (four months ago) link

Lol, I meant "Secondary Modern" but I love "Hoover Factory" too

Chuck_Tatum, Thursday, 24 March 2022 23:29 (four months ago) link

I love his singing on "Secondary Modern," especially the way he sings the chorus. Get Happy!! in general is pretty awesome - I can't remember where, but I remember reading somewhere that the engineer Roger Bechirian said it was his favorite album by EC too. (He'd go on to co-produce Squeeze's best album with EC.)

birdistheword, Friday, 25 March 2022 06:04 (four months ago) link

I didn't know 'secondary modern' well at all but yes, outstanding sound, song and singing.

the pinefox, Friday, 25 March 2022 12:07 (four months ago) link

Get Happy was my favorite growing up; I listened to it on the way to school every morning. Later I thought that the "serious" ones were better (Imperial Bedroom, King of America, This Years Model maybe). But I pulled out my vinyl copy a couple of months ago and was completely blown away by how solid the whole thing is, and was especially impressed by his "backing vocals." It really holds up.

Also, as Nick Lowe insists, "no groovepacking!"

three of the doctor's valuable bats are now dead (broom air), Friday, 25 March 2022 15:47 (four months ago) link

"Human Touch" and "I Stand Accused" are the only middling songs on here; he recorded better outtakes but probably felt he needed to keep the tempo up. There's an interview where he explains that the lyrics were almost like automatic writing; songs were written nearly as soon as they were written. There's a lot of amusing nonsense in the words that was actually more appealing than when he took more time and used more craft to come up with more perfect words.

According to someone on Song Meanings:

"Black and White World" refers to the black and white photography used in the cheaper porno mags of the 60's and 70's.

Halfway there but for you, Friday, 25 March 2022 16:09 (four months ago) link

OTM. He really had a tendency to overwork things until they turned bad.

Mardi Gras Mambo Sun (James Redd and the Blecchs), Friday, 25 March 2022 16:21 (four months ago) link

Yes, and that's one reason Get Happy is so good: he's working quickly.

Pete's drumming on Human Touch is all-time great.

three of the doctor's valuable bats are now dead (broom air), Friday, 25 March 2022 16:23 (four months ago) link

The b-sides comp Ten Bloody Marys & Ten How's Your Fathers is a great companion to this - another 20 songs, short and sharp, no duffers

Chuck_Tatum, Friday, 25 March 2022 17:38 (four months ago) link

They’re also both records that don’t make sense to me unless they’re on cassette

Chuck_Tatum, Friday, 25 March 2022 17:39 (four months ago) link

I love his singing on "Secondary Modern," especially the way he sings the chorus.

Yep, for me it's how he sings the line "Now my whole world goes from blue to blue"

Get Happy!! is best Elvis.

J. Sam, Friday, 25 March 2022 17:51 (four months ago) link

Yes that moment is so lovely

Chuck_Tatum, Friday, 25 March 2022 18:00 (four months ago) link

Ten Bloody... would be classic even if it were just "Stranger in the House" and "My Funny Valentine."

takin' care of bismuth (Ye Mad Puffin), Friday, 25 March 2022 18:47 (four months ago) link

It's one of the best-ever b-sides and outtakes records.

Halfway there but for you, Friday, 25 March 2022 18:51 (four months ago) link

I acquired that one late since my intro to buying Costello albums was Girls, Girls Girls (still his best overall comp) and then the Ryko reissues which had all of Ten Bloody Marys sprinkled in as bonus tracks; when I recently went through and cleared out some vinyl, I pulled that out thinking I might sell it back but quickly realized that one is a keeper.

akm, Friday, 25 March 2022 20:18 (four months ago) link

Rare EC track in a very Scouse context:


I see that the song appeared on OUT OF OUR IDIOT.

the pinefox, Wednesday, 30 March 2022 15:48 (four months ago) link

Black and White World probably my favorite track from that record

frogbs, Wednesday, 30 March 2022 15:52 (four months ago) link

I love so many of the b-sides from the 2nd/3rd/4th album era, Talking In The Dark, Hoover Factory, Dr Luther's Assistant with its drunken rhythm section.

Maresn3st, Wednesday, 30 March 2022 16:00 (four months ago) link

First time I ever saw Elvis Costello in concert, he invited Questlove to come up and play drums on "Black and White World." This was two years before they collaborated on Wise Up Ghost so at the time it was a complete surprise. Before Questlove stepped down, he took a photo with his phone, and sure enough it showed up on his Instagram feed. Great show for a lot of reasons, but mostly because I finally got to see him live.

birdistheword, Wednesday, 30 March 2022 16:02 (four months ago) link

I think my favourite part about most live gigs is seeing the artist perform, too.

beepy fridges (sic), Wednesday, 30 March 2022 16:59 (four months ago) link


beepy fridges (sic), Wednesday, 30 March 2022 16:59 (four months ago) link

one month passes...


As someone who had been bought a ticket (it's not being rescheduled), this crawls to new lows not experinced since 'North'

PaulTMA, Friday, 20 May 2022 21:20 (two months ago) link

I've had shows rescheduled due to playoff games claiming priority over the venue, but it's kind of ridiculous to see artists cancelling them just to SEE the game. FFS if it means that much, black out those dates before you go scheduling a tour.

birdistheword, Friday, 20 May 2022 22:59 (two months ago) link

Ticket holders didn't get refunded for the CD you were forced to buy to gain entry, so my pal who bought 4 got a £20 discount overall. They got an email saying ticket holders would have it made up to us, but I suspect it might be 70 CD copies of 'Hey Clockface' each

PaulTMA, Friday, 20 May 2022 23:02 (two months ago) link

*refund, not discount whoops

PaulTMA, Friday, 20 May 2022 23:02 (two months ago) link

that's some real bullshit

frogbs, Friday, 20 May 2022 23:13 (two months ago) link

At least he'll get one night's rest for his voice

PaulTMA, Friday, 20 May 2022 23:33 (two months ago) link

His audience will also get one night’s rest from his voice

Halfway there but for you, Friday, 20 May 2022 23:36 (two months ago) link

I hope for his sake no one uploaded Shipbuilding Glasgow March 2020

PaulTMA, Friday, 20 May 2022 23:41 (two months ago) link

two months pass...

Haven't seen EC live for a few several years but I've heard good things about recent shows and will be catching him tomorrow. Great bill, really: EC and the Imposters with Charlie Sexton sitting in, and opening is Nick Lowe with Los Straightjackets.

Josh in Chicago, Thursday, 4 August 2022 13:18 (one week ago) link

Yeah, I'm going to the show in NY - I've seen him four times since 2011, but with Nick Lowe opening I had to go again. (I'm still disappointed I missed his free show at Lincoln Center in 2017. I've never seen him live.)

I hate to say this, but I think EC's singing has steadily grown off over the years. The 2011 show was GREAT - one of my all-time favorite shows. Then I saw him on the Imperial Bedroom tour where I was up against the stage (Jesus, it was like watching him in my living room), and for the first few numbers, he seemed to lag behind the beat. I thought it was going to be an off night, but he seemed to right the ship and it wound up being amazing. McCartney's Flowers in the Dirt box set had just come out so the highlight was a rare performance of "The Lovers That Never Were" - AWESOME. Then he had the health scare and I saw his first show back at Riot Fest, and once again, it seemed like his singing was lagging, this time for most of his set. The one big exception was easily the highlight for me, an amazing version of "I Want You," and in hindsight, I think the difference was tempo - since it was Riot Fest, he drew mostly on the fast numbers from the first two albums, and that's where he seemed to drag behind too much. When I saw him in 2019 in support of Look Now it was a little too much - I kind of blame the album. Greil Marcus gave a pretty good description of it - "12 songs baked in cake" - and that sound seemed to carry over to the show. But his singing again seemed to be dragging behind the beat.

It's hard to say what's going on. I thought maybe it was just a physical sign of getting older, but he's been listening to a lot of jazz in recent years, especially '30s and '40s jazz, and sometimes I'm wondering if he's intentionally trying to sing on a different beat to make the familiar material more interesting to him, i.e. do something unconventional with it.

birdistheword, Thursday, 4 August 2022 13:59 (one week ago) link

I think it's a combination of getting older and also various health scares/treatments, plus maybe messing with his approach to keep things interesting. I know he's always held his singing in pretty high esteem, boasting about not needing a microphone to reach the last row, that sort of thing. But everyone loses power eventually. Aretha, Bruce, Sinatra, etc. It's just the way it goes. And the aforementioned are a lot more economical with lyrics.

Josh in Chicago, Thursday, 4 August 2022 14:12 (one week ago) link

Yeah, that's very true. I think the difficulty of what they're singing definitely makes a difference. A bit related, I saw Ringo and McCartney on back-to-back nights, and the takeaway was that Ringo still sounded like Ringo and Paul had clearly aged a lot. But Ringo's songs were never hard to sing, they were perfectly suited for a narrow range. Plus, he only sang like 30-40 minutes with a long break in the middle. Paul's going full tilt for nearly three hours straight, and his setlist demands a protean voice. Going back to EC, half the time he's got a long string of words he's cramming into a melody that's zipping by at top speed.

birdistheword, Thursday, 4 August 2022 14:39 (one week ago) link

Some of Ringo's songs are pitched down quite a bit too. One wouldn't necessarily think "Yellow Submarine" is particularly taxing, but it's in a lower key than the recording. But yeah, Paul's still singing "Helter Skelter," and in its original key.

Montgomery Burns' Jazz (Tarfumes The Escape Goat), Thursday, 4 August 2022 15:20 (one week ago) link

His voice sounds great tonight.

Josh in Chicago, Saturday, 6 August 2022 01:25 (one week ago) link

Flashing back to the last time I saw him, when he might have been younger than I am now.

Josh in Chicago, Saturday, 6 August 2022 01:38 (one week ago) link

Glad to hear that! It may help that his new album is actually a strong and solid one - I'm especially looking forward to hearing Sexton play with them, and hopefully something with Lowe. It hit me that he's been the only guitarist in his band for much of his career, so I'm very curious to hear what Sexton brings to the table. (Last time I saw Sexton, he was still in Dylan's band, and his solos were a definite highlight.)

FWIW, when I went to see Al Green in 2019, I remember passing by some elderly fans who mentioned that the last time they saw Green, it was the '70s! They probably had a similar Proustian rush when that dawned on them.

birdistheword, Saturday, 6 August 2022 03:43 (one week ago) link

Sexton didn't add that much, tbh. No collab with Lowe, either, but Nicole Atkins sat in for three or so songs.

Josh in Chicago, Saturday, 6 August 2022 03:58 (one week ago) link

Ah well. It'll be nice to see him regardless while he's in good health (and within a reasonable price).

birdistheword, Saturday, 6 August 2022 05:15 (one week ago) link

Tonight's show was actually pretty great! As I mentioned, it felt like the shows were going on a downward slide these past 10 years, but this one was mostly excellent.

I mentioned some idiosyncrasies upthread that recently developed with his singing, and they popped up again on the first number and a few others. But this time there was no mistaking that it was clearly intentional. For example, he did "Mystery Dance" full tilt and he had no problem hitting the beat on every word - it was no different than how he sang it forty years ago. But on "Watching the Detectives," which is probably half the tempo, he again dragged behind the beat, and it really felt like he was applying what he's heard on countless jazz records, even using hand gestures to punctuate the rhythm in certain places. I also noticed he was able to keep his hands off his guitar during stretches like this, thanks to Sexton's presence, and it made me wonder if that actually helped - if you're going to do some jazz phrasing that upends the rhythm of the vocal, it's probably MUCH harder when you're playing rhythm guitar and your hands are still locked in with the bass and drums.

Anyway, Sexton's presence was subtle, but to me there were moments where it paid off beautifully. (It was also his birthday and he got a huge kick out of EC and Steve Nieve performing "happy birthday" to him during the band introductions.) Sexton played a few beautiful solos, "Alison" was a closing highlight thanks to him (unlike Costello, he can play everything John McFee can), and I think I can see why EC has kept him on. He traded solos with Steve Nieve in a few spots, and whenever I heard Nieve play something ghostly followed by an elegant guitar solo from Sexton, I thought "WOW, this is kind of like the Band!" The point seemed driven home when Nicole Atkins stepped in for a few numbers and sang some Band-like harmonies with Costello (together, but not really together). To be clear, you're not going to mistake these songs for the Band's, but there were those moments where it felt like Costello was taking ideas for the live arrangements from their music.

That brings me to the first real highlight of the show in "Hetty O'Hara Confidential." I actually don't like that song, I think it's one of the failed experiments on Hey Clockface. But they tweak the arrangement here and it makes a world of a difference, switching out the awkward attempt at a beatbox with acoustic jazz elements, including extended solos by Sexton and Nieve, and it worked beautifully - I really wish THIS was the version they recorded for the album.

Nick Lowe was wonderful, and he joined EC and his band for two back-to-back songs: "Indoor Fireworks" and "(What's So Funny 'Bout) Peace, Love & Understanding." The former might've been too slow for my tastes - I think they drew it out to seven whole minutes whereas it was four on their albums - but Lowe sung it beautifully when it got to his turn. The latter was wonderful, and both that and "Alison" had the whole crowd singing along - it made both songs seem like massive hits even though it appears that neither single made the Billboard charts for EC.

Very glad I went, and now I'm looking forward to his Gramercy Theater residency in February - 200 different songs over ten nights!

birdistheword, Friday, 12 August 2022 04:47 (four days ago) link

The takeaway: EC's voice is still good and Charlie Sexton always makes everything better!

Josh in Chicago, Friday, 12 August 2022 12:10 (four days ago) link

You must be logged in to post. Please either login here, or if you are not registered, you may register here.