Elvis Costello: Classic or Dud

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

Venga, Wednesday, 23 May 2001 00:00 (nineteen 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 (nineteen 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 (nineteen 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 (nineteen 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 (nineteen 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 (nineteen 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 (nineteen 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 (nineteen 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 (nineteen 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 (nineteen 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 (nineteen 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 (nineteen 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 (nineteen years ago) link

I hope Elvis Costello licks Sting.

proton, Wednesday, 23 May 2001 00:00 (nineteen 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 (nineteen 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."

Genius.

Ned Raggett, Wednesday, 23 May 2001 00:00 (nineteen 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."

Heh.

Venga, Wednesday, 23 May 2001 00:00 (nineteen years ago) link

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

Andrew L, Wednesday, 23 May 2001 00:00 (nineteen 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 (nineteen years ago) link

Point and laugh?

proton, Wednesday, 23 May 2001 00:00 (nineteen 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 (nineteen 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 (nineteen 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 (nineteen 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 (nineteen 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 (nineteen 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 (nineteen 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 (nineteen 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 (nineteen 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 (nineteen years ago) link

barney has a personality?

fred solinger, Wednesday, 23 May 2001 00:00 (nineteen 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 (nineteen 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 (nineteen 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 (nineteen 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 (nineteen 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 (nineteen 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 (nineteen years ago) link

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

Ned Raggett, Wednesday, 23 May 2001 00:00 (nineteen years ago) link

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

Josh, Wednesday, 23 May 2001 00:00 (nineteen years ago) link

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

Ned Raggett, Wednesday, 23 May 2001 00:00 (nineteen 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 (nineteen 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 (nineteen 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 (nineteen 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 (nineteen 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 (nineteen 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 (nineteen 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 (nineteen 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 (nineteen 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 (nineteen 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 (nineteen 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 (nineteen years ago) link

Thanks Josh

Anaïs Ninja (Ye Mad Puffin), Wednesday, 28 October 2020 16:30 (two months ago) link

Back to Marty Costello, I actually think the Scorsese comparison is pretty apt. They're both in a sense technical savants with really identifiable personal trademarks, with a "core" catalog buffered by several conspicuously stylistic deviations over the years that nonetheless below the surface fit right in. I'd say, with minimal thought, that "Gangs of New York" may be his "Mighty Like a Rose."

Thanks Josh. If you ever sit through Scorsese's commentaries and old DVD extras (particularly for Raging Bull or Taxi Driver), what's extraordinary (yes, extraordinary) is how he applies his encyclopedic knowledge of film history to the way he crafts every scene. He references a wide array of films that on the surface don't have much in common with one another, and what he comes up with doesn't feel like a patchwork collage - it's seamless and organic, you don't mistake it for anything but a Scorsese film. One boxing scene was heavily modeled on the shower scene in Psycho, Jake and Vicki's first encounter on a scene between Terry and Edie in On the Waterfront, etc. None of this is obvious when you watch the movie, but it's clear when they point it out to you and put them up side-by-side or throw up a storyboard next to a scene.

When EC wrote the liner notes for those Rhino reissues, at least for some of the earlier albums he goes track-by-track listing every element from every record they stole. Get Happy!! always made its sources obvious, that was part of the concept, but on Armed Forces, he's listing everything from ABBA to David Bowie's Eno collaborations, Bacharach/David songs like "Anyone Who Had a Heart," etc. and it goes on and on like that. Again, it doesn't feel like a patchwork collage of other records thrown together, it's seamless and organic and you don't mistake it for anything but an Elvis Costello record. But when he points out the sources, the connection becomes clear. It's like that cynical axiom that says all art is theft and that the best artists know how to obscure that thievery more skillfully than others.

I was taken aback by mookie's response which to be blunt was garbage, but if he wants to live down to that, good luck to him.

birdistheword, Wednesday, 28 October 2020 17:05 (two months ago) link

I like your theory, birdistheword !

I quite like the idea of an artist who draws so deliberately on another thing, but not just by directly (maybe lazily) quoting it, rather by using it as inspiration for a creative act that has its own intensity or complexity.

the pinefox, Wednesday, 28 October 2020 18:10 (two months ago) link

Thanks pinefox! I remember David Byrne did a radio interview around 1999 or 2000 where they asked him about artists he or Talking Heads had influenced, and he kind of mentioned what you just said - he had a greater appreciation for those who didn't sound like his work. He liked inspiring artists to take similar risks, but the result really had to be their own rather than mimic or re-create something he or Talking Heads had already done.

birdistheword, Wednesday, 28 October 2020 22:35 (two months ago) link

I've listened to Clockface - I liked it the for the first six tracks, but it kind of falls apart after that, with experiments that don't work and soft-jazz ballads that are hit-or-miss (and even then the performances of those ballads may be an acquired taste - I'm not really a fan of his wife's music, but those songs feel like they'd fit better on her albums).

birdistheword, Friday, 30 October 2020 05:43 (two months ago) link

Wait, is this a new EC LP again ??

It is! Crikey!

the pinefox, Friday, 30 October 2020 12:22 (two months ago) link

What about LOOK NOW?

I have still not heard that but think I might like it.

the pinefox, Friday, 30 October 2020 12:22 (two months ago) link

I thought Look Now was okay. Greil Marcus described it as "12 songs baked in a cake" in his dismissive review, and to be fair that's a good description for how it sounds.

I liked "Under Lime," "Unwanted Number" and "Mr. & Mrs. Hush," they were immediately engaging. ("Unwanted Number" is actually an old song - it was written in 1995 or 1996 for Grace of My Heart as a fictional '60s hit, and it fits very well with Look Now. This may be the first time he's recorded it himself, barring any circulating demos.)

"Suspect My Tears" was pretty good too, albeit a little overdone for my taste. I'm not a huge fan of "Stripping Paper" but quite a few people seem to believe it's one of the highlights.

Marcus actually preferred the four-song EP that came with the expanded edition. (It's all streaming on Spotify.) He singled out “The Final Mrs. Curtain" and I have to agree, it's an excellent track that should have been on the album proper.

birdistheword, Friday, 30 October 2020 13:31 (two months ago) link

(Forgot, "Unwanted Number" was also performed on the All This Useless Beauty tour, albeit re-arranged as a dirge.)

birdistheword, Friday, 30 October 2020 13:42 (two months ago) link

Is 'Unwanted Number' in the film? If so I really liked it.

Surprised at how prolific EC is being, again.

The SPIKE demos (CD2?) are not on Spotify.

I finally played '... this town ...' again last night. Remarkable. The lyric is finally too obscene for me, but the music - I'd not realised wuite how powerful, pervasive and creative Roger McGuinn was on this track. It's curious that he only ever played on *one* EC track - so superbly - but never again.

the pinefox, Saturday, 31 October 2020 11:00 (two months ago) link

Speaking of which, I had no idea untucks today that he made a video for "This Town", and I was paying attention at the time. If I had seen it I might have recognised the references to Donald Trump, I wonder if I'd heard of him back then?

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HXzkG4LK9gY

Tim, Saturday, 31 October 2020 11:29 (two months ago) link

Tim: yes, I saw this the other day and my thoughts were precisely the same!

the pinefox, Saturday, 31 October 2020 11:45 (two months ago) link

I'd not realised wuite how powerful, pervasive and creative Roger McGuinn was on this track. It's curious that he only ever played on *one* EC track - so superbly - but never again.

Well, "You Bowed Down" isn't McGuinn but also kind of IS McGuinn.

Anaïs Ninja (Ye Mad Puffin), Saturday, 31 October 2020 17:16 (two months ago) link

As luck would have it, someone uploaded the clip on YouTube (albeit squashed):

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FPcoREKDW30

The R&B group For Real is credited with performing (or at least singing) the film recording. It's also on the out-of-print 1998 compilation Bespoke Songs, Lost Dogs, Detours & Rendezvous that Rhino put together before they licensed his back catalog. Not a bad compilation.

The deluxe edition of Look Now is on Spotify, but yes, the Rhino bonus discs (covering everything up to and including All This Useless Beauty) are all out-of-circulation. Elvis Costello's talked about this in interviews because he considers each of those bonus discs to be an album in its own right. Unfortunately, their availability seems to be out of his hands, so it probably has something to do with his deal with Universal. No idea what, it could be a lot of things: maybe Universal has the final say on whether to make them available, maybe they don't but the release for that material is tied up by some disagreement between both parties (or maybe even with Rhino/WEA), who knows.

FWIW, "You Bowed Down" was originally written for McGuinn, and it's on his album Back from Rio. It's been mentioned in several places (probably the Rhino liner notes too), but EC re-recorded it for All This Useless Beauty because he didn't believe they recorded it quite right. (The producer for Back from Rio didn't see eye-to-eye with McGuinn and he even tried to bury his 12-string in the mix before McGuinn objected.) EC's version sounds even more like a note-perfect re-creation of the Byrds (specifically 1965).

birdistheword, Saturday, 31 October 2020 20:40 (two months ago) link

Thanks, bird, for more of the story on "You Bowed Down." A high quality song.

I love Bespoke Songs..., though my CD got scratched at some point and now won't play correctly. Loads of great stuff - Aimee Mann, Zucchero, Don Was, Christy Moore.

marzipandemonium (Ye Mad Puffin), Saturday, 31 October 2020 20:55 (two months ago) link

Back In Rio is a really good album!!!

brimstead, Saturday, 31 October 2020 21:56 (two months ago) link

and it’s version of “you bow down” is better than the one on ATUB

brimstead, Saturday, 31 October 2020 21:58 (two months ago) link

its

imo

brimstead, Saturday, 31 October 2020 21:58 (two months ago) link

(The producer for Back from Rio didn't see eye-to-eye with McGuinn and he even tried to bury his 12-string in the mix before McGuinn objected.) EC's version sounds even more like a note-perfect re-creation of the Byrds (specifically 1965).

A fraught album, apparently. In the Tom Petty doc, Bogdanovich includes a clip of Tom Petty arguing for the exclusion of what Petty calls a terrible pop song while the young producer smiles assholeishly and McGuinn looks chagrined.

Patriotic Goiter (Alfred, Lord Sotosyn), Saturday, 31 October 2020 21:59 (two months ago) link

that was an awkward moment

brimstead, Sunday, 1 November 2020 00:17 (two months ago) link

Who is responsible for the graphic design on the last couple of EC albums? My god.

sctttnnnt (pgwp), Monday, 2 November 2020 15:08 (two months ago) link

The producer for Back from Rio didn't see eye-to-eye with McGuinn and he even tried to bury his 12-string in the mix

This really is like 'Elvis Costello's producer tried to persuade him to make it an instrumental LP', or 'Larry Adler's manager said it mostly sounded fine, but Larry should ditch the harmonica'.

the pinefox, Monday, 2 November 2020 17:13 (two months ago) link

BACK FROM RIO is a terrific LP. 'You Bowed Down' is one of the best things on it, and I think EC sings bvs on it.

I'm not sure I prefer the USELESS BEAUTY version - it has a wonderful epic scale (especially intro and outro), but it actually misses out some of the chords (and adds an odd slow bridge), and changes some of the words as I recall. And I suppose on that song I'd rather hear McGuinn's lead vocal.

the pinefox, Monday, 2 November 2020 17:15 (two months ago) link

Are they as bad as Beautiful South covers?
xp

Meet the Anti-Monks! (James Redd and the Blecchs), Monday, 2 November 2020 18:04 (two months ago) link

What made you think of Larry Adler, the pinefox?

Meet the Anti-Monks! (James Redd and the Blecchs), Monday, 2 November 2020 18:44 (two months ago) link

Like "Jim" McGuinn, he was closely associated with a particular instrument !!!

the pinefox, Tuesday, 3 November 2020 13:16 (two months ago) link

McGuinn sounds weedy on the Rio version.

Patriotic Goiter (Alfred, Lord Sotosyn), Tuesday, 3 November 2020 13:22 (two months ago) link

Cool, teh pinefox. I met one of his relatives a few times.

Meet the Anti-Monks! (James Redd and the Blecchs), Tuesday, 3 November 2020 13:23 (two months ago) link

Larry Adler

The name Larry Adler puts me in mind of Simon & Garfunkel's "A Simple Desultory Phillippic"

I been Norman Mailered, Maxwell Taylored...
I been Phil Spectored, resurrected
I've been Lou Adlered, Barry Sadlered

Kabob Dylan (Ye Mad Puffin), Tuesday, 3 November 2020 15:35 (two months ago) link

Lol

Meet the Anti-Monks! (James Redd and the Blecchs), Tuesday, 3 November 2020 15:36 (two months ago) link

pinefox otm, ec kinda fucks up the hook on his version

brimstead, Tuesday, 3 November 2020 18:12 (two months ago) link

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MHlJS9FJxyc

Probably my favorite country cover from Elvis. (A Leon Payne song, Eddie Noack's version is probably the best-known recording.)

birdistheword, Tuesday, 10 November 2020 20:36 (two months ago) link

The timecode doesn't carry over, but the song's at 29:13

birdistheword, Tuesday, 10 November 2020 20:38 (two months ago) link

two weeks pass...

First, this is fun:

https://pitchfork.com/features/5-10-15-20/elvis-costello-on-the-music-of-his-life/

Second, I find it fascinating that EC had such a fruitful but fleeting career moonlighting as a producer. Squeeze's "East Side Story" (plus "Tempted"), the Pogues' "Rum, Sodomy & the Lash," and the first Specials album (plus, later, "Free Nelson Mandela"). And I just found out he produced the first demo of "Fairytale of New York":

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zsenFnCMi2o

But he never really produced anything ever again, not past 1985, afaict.

Josh in Chicago, Monday, 30 November 2020 17:11 (one month ago) link

apparently Elektra pushed hard for him to produce Apollo 18 by They Might be Giants but TMBG themselves were such big Costello fans that they refused, not wanting to "waste" his time. I still wonder what that might've sounded like.

frogbs, Monday, 30 November 2020 17:13 (one month ago) link

From that interview, btw:

PJ Harvey: 4-Track Demos
I remember seeing PJ on The Tonight Show. She stood there with just a guitar and did “Rid of Me.” It was like seeing Howlin’ Wolf on Shindig! So great. And then I got the record (Rid of Me), and it was nowhere near as good, but it didn’t matter. For me, the record sounds like shit. That guy (Steve Albini) doesn’t know anything about production. He might be the second-worst producer of a great record after Jimmy Iovine, who totally fucked up (Bruce Springsteen’s) Darkness on the Edge of Town. It sounds like Bruce is in a fucking shoe box full of tissue paper.

Josh in Chicago, Monday, 30 November 2020 17:17 (one month ago) link

He's right about Darkness, wrong about Albini...but then, he loves Froom, so I guess that's not a surprising take.

(And Albini would no doubt agree that he doesn't know anything about production, since he always points out that he's an engineer, not a producer.)

Montgomery Burns' Jazz (Tarfumes The Escape Goat), Monday, 30 November 2020 17:31 (one month ago) link

Hmm, I don't mind Albini, but given part of his deal is capturing what a band sounds like live, yet "Rid of Me" is nowhere near as good as that band was live (imo), does indicate a bad match (even if it was a bad match of her choosing). The rest of the EC quote (which I accidentally excised) sums it up for him thusly:

And that’s why 4-Track Demos is 20 times the version of the songs on the album, in terms of intensity and intent. What matters is her, what PJ is doing. There’s nobody like her.

Josh in Chicago, Monday, 30 November 2020 17:48 (one month ago) link

That is to say, the production, like it or not (and sometimes I don't mind it), is every bit a distraction as Froom filigrees can be, imo.

Josh in Chicago, Monday, 30 November 2020 17:53 (one month ago) link

I love 4-Track Demos, but weirdly never thought of comparing it to Rid Of Me -- they seem like such different records. I always loved the sound of Rid Of Me, and I think (one of) the fundamental difference(s) between Froom and Albini is that Albini's approach exploits the drama. Froom feels like he's forcing the drama...or just trying to force something to happen that can't or won't or shouldn't happen.

The one time I saw PJ Harvey, in the summer of '93, they had supposedly decided to break up earlier in the tour, but needed to finish out the dates. They seemed remote from one another, and while it was a fine enough show, it didn't make me think Rid Of Me was unrepresentative of their sound.

Montgomery Burns' Jazz (Tarfumes The Escape Goat), Monday, 30 November 2020 19:11 (one month ago) link

iovine just engineered darkness, right? i mean, he's partly responsible for the sound, but the ultimate credit/blame would have to be with the boss himself (and landau, I suppose).

tylerw, Monday, 30 November 2020 19:23 (one month ago) link

Yeah, and didn't Iovine kind of give up partway through and Chuck Plotkin had to come in and help? Or am I making that up?

Lily Dale, Monday, 30 November 2020 19:31 (one month ago) link

Yep, Iovine was the engineer. In 1977-78, though, it was apparently impossible to find a studio in the US with any kind of resonance. Everything had carpeted walls -- Greil Marcus called it "the muffled flumpf of L.A. studio drummers." Not sure why Landau/Iovine didn't add reverb from whatever outboard gear was around at the time, but Bruce was pretty exacting, if not always clear, about how he wanted things to sound.

Plotkin did some (all?) mixing on Darkness.

Montgomery Burns' Jazz (Tarfumes The Escape Goat), Monday, 30 November 2020 19:37 (one month ago) link

i love that dead 70s drum sound

reverb is for cowards

Blues Guitar Solo Heatmap (Free Download) (upper mississippi sh@kedown), Monday, 30 November 2020 19:38 (one month ago) link

Maybe Elvis Costello and Steve Albini can patch things up over a beer and saying the N-word

Whiney G. Weingarten, Monday, 30 November 2020 19:50 (one month ago) link

ums otm

velcro-magnon (Ye Mad Puffin), Monday, 30 November 2020 20:06 (one month ago) link

ultimate credit/blame would have to be with the boss himself

This is pretty much always true, whether the boss is the Boss or Metallica or whomever. "Rid of Me" sounds like it does because that's what PJ wanted, for better or for worse. The sound is definitely part of the album's character, however.

Re: Froom, I think the culprit (if one is even needed) may actually be Tchad Blake, who is (even) more quirky and idiosyncratic than Froom. Blake produced Soul Coughing solo, for example, which leans into that stuff hard. But Froom's production on those first few Ron Sexsmith albums is pretty sympathetic and subdued. Regardless, Froom's stuff, like Albini's (as he will be the first to say), isn't exactly being imposed. Folks go to Froom for Froom, just as others go to Albini, whose metier probably allows for a greater range of productions than Froom's, come to think of it. For point of comparison, I suppose, Low might be the only group that has gone with both approaches. Well, Tchad Blake and Albini, respectively.

Josh in Chicago, Monday, 30 November 2020 20:06 (one month ago) link

reverb helps cowards feel strong and brave

tylerw, Monday, 30 November 2020 20:08 (one month ago) link

I mean, if you don't think the drums sound good on Rumours (to use the most obvious example) then I just am not sure what is up with your ears

velcro-magnon (Ye Mad Puffin), Monday, 30 November 2020 20:10 (one month ago) link

xpost That and double tracking vocals!

Fleetwood Mac drums sound ace. Much better than the marshmallow drums that came a decade later, like the drums on Bryan Adams' "Heaven." Boooooooooooooosh!

Fun fact: Stewart Copeland apparently cranked his drums (especially his snare) so tight that they had to spend a whole bunch of time adding effects to make them sound deeper and more resonant.

Josh in Chicago, Monday, 30 November 2020 20:11 (one month ago) link


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