(This is another posting lifted from the old blog back in March 2007 – I had intended to feature one his singles today but instead felt it worthwhile sharing the old stuff)
I like to roam around hundreds of music blogs – sometimes looking for good ideas to steal and call my own – but mostly to read what other people have to say and occasionally listen to the mp3s they put up with the postings.
Many bloggers have a section that details the names of their favourite singers and bands, and I’ve come to discover that there is a name of a great singer/songwriter that doesn’t crop up all that often, and yet if you asked music-lovers the world over whether or not they like him, you would get an awful lot more folk shouting ‘AYE’ than you would those that would whisper ‘NAY’. I’m talking about Declan Patrick McManus aka Elvis Costello.
Have a think about this man’s recording career which now spans 30 years, and how many different styles and genres he’s had a go at. There’s been New Wave, Stax/Motown, Country & Western, Easy Listening, Classical, Jazz/Swing, Folk, Cover Versions, Protest Songs, Soundtracks, Pop and Rock.
I wouldn’t even begin to try to count how many labels he’s recorded for far less calculate just how many singles and LPs he has released in various guises. And there must have been at least eight Best Of compilations over the years.
He’s also been involved in high-profile recordings with folk of the stature of Paul McCartney and Burt Bacharach (and they have stature whether you’re fans or not). He’s produced umpteen bands over the years, not least The Specials and The Pogues, the latter of whom he helped turn from a cult act into a chart act. And he’s been in numerous TV and film productions, often appearing as himself. He’s written songs and whole albums for other artistes.
So quite clearly the man is a living legend.But as I said his name rarely appears in the list of favourites that you find on many blogs.
I suppose part of the difficulty in anyone automatically reeling-off EC as one of the all-time greats is the fact that he has turned his hand to so many different things, some more successfully than others, and I don’t think there can be too many who can claim to own every bit of music he’s recorded and released over the past three decades. And given how long he has been going, there will naturally have been the occasional duff LP put out, and perhaps one or two of the projects were a bit too vain, and possibly even pretentious, rather than of top-drawer quality. I don’t think even EC would say that writing for, recording with and producing Wendy James in her thankfully brief post-Transvision Vamp solo efforts would be a high point of his career.
Some bloggers might have been embarrassed by some of the daft things he has said or done over the years, such as the drunken racist comments he uttered about James Brown & Ray Charles in the late 70s. Or the fact that he has been less than flatteringly portrayed in a number of rock biographies, not least this, written by Bruce Thomas the long-time bassist with The Attractions.
But overall, there can be surely no argument that as a composer and lyricist, there are few who can hold a candle to the talents of Elvis Costello in the latter part of the 20th Century, particularly in his prime of the late 70s and throughout the 80s. I could probably post any of maybe 100 songs to illustrate my point, but instead I’ve gone for this handful including some lesser known stuff:-
mp3 : Elvis Costello & The Attractions – Watching The Detectives
mp3 : Elvis Costello & The Attractions – Man Out Of Time
mp3 : Elvis Costello – Brilliant Mistake
mp3 : Elvis Costello – Little Palaces
mp3 : Elvis Costello & The Attractions – Battered Old Bird
The first two were singles. Tracks 3 & 4 are on King of America. Track 5 is one of many outstanding tracks on Blood & Chocolate.
And here’s a cover version of a Nick Lowe song that he did as a b-side in 1991
mp3 : Elvis Costello – The Ugly Things