Friday, July 29, 2016

Elvis Costello's Latter Day Gems: THE WEEKEND MIX

I was inspired to put this mix together after listening to Elvis Costello's 2002 release, "When I Was Cruel." It had been more than a minute since I played that record and after acquiring a rare beauty of a copy on vinyl, I decided to give it a spin. I recall liking the record at the time of its original release, but thought it had problems.  I was very surprised to discover that time has been kind. "When I Was Cruel" played like a winner. The "problems," whatever I thought they were at the time, seemed to disappear, with my only complaint being the terrible song "Alibi." Nonetheless, I loved what I heard and played it a second time, almost immediately. It's a fully realized collection of tunes. Coherent and melodic and successfully, a bit off center.

I know Mr. McManus is one of those artists we often discuss, as one who we've "given up" on. But with the exception of what I think is an unlistenable "National Ransom," I have enjoyed everything the man has offered. Some more than others, of course, but all worthy.

I was thinking about the change. The point where so many jumped ship. Was it the label change from Columbia to Warner Brothers? I don't think so. The Attractions were still making the occasional appearance and I don't recall anyone having a problem with "Veronica" or "Brutal Youth," or some of those gems on "All This Useless Beauty."

Was it the label change from Warner to Universal? The change in bass players? Or the frame change from black to tortoise shell? Or the hat? It had to be the hat! Wherever you gave up, I've chosen the year 1998 as a starting point for this collection of tunes you may or may not be familiar with.

The aforementioned "When I Was Cruel" is represented three times, and my other latter day favorite, the just about non-existent but no less amazing, "Momofuku" is represented three times, as well. We have two from the Bacharach collaboration, two from "Secret, Profane & Sugar Cane," two from the Allen Toussaint collaboration, one from "North," (a Japanese bonus track),  two from "The Delivery Man," and one from The Roots record. There is the one track I do love from "National Ransom" and one from the recently released collection of companion tunes to Costello's memoir.

Give it a go and if there are some latter day gems you love that I missed, let us know what they are.


No Hiding Place
Country Darkness
Tear Off Your Own Head
This House Is Empty
Complicated Shadows
Song With Rose
Sugar Won't Work
The Greatest Love
My Little Blue Window
Femme Fatale
Soul For Hire
Church Underground
Go Away
April 5th
God Give Me Strength


(P.S. Something tells me I may have done this before, but I can't find it. And if I did do it before, I am sure that link is dead.) 



Always room for more Elvis -- Thanks!

Sal, I have an Elvis mix -- that must have come from you -- titled "2001-2014." 15 tracks starting with Tear Off Your Own Head and ending with The Scarlet Tide. Maybe we have to do a "battle of the mixes" a la your recent Stones Off!

Have a great weekend

buzzbabyjesus said...

I gave up on Elvis sometime after "Truth".

Isn't "Goodbye Cruel World" kind of a turning point? His liner notes to the 1995 reissue on Rykodisc open with the statement, "Congratulations! You just bought the worst album of my career."

Then one day in 2004, I walked into NYCD and, speaking of bass players "Button My Lip" knocked me right out. I bought "Delivery Man" and played it several times.
Then I started buying all the reissues. I liked "When I was Cruel" quite a bit, as well as "All This Useless Beauty".
My rekindled interest didn't last long enough to get "Momofoku", but I no longer say bad things about his music. It's just that there's so much of it and he's so wordy, it gets overwhelming.

Thanks for the mix!

Sal Nunziato said...

I found the mix, Jayessemm. Half of the songs are repeated, but as I said, the link is dead. So not a total loss.

Noam Sane said...

I have the old mix too, it's a good one. I'll check this out as well, much appreciated.

When the songs started getting longer and longer, and denser and denser, I sort of tuned out. I had a parallel experience with the autobiography - after the halfway mark it becomes less raw and fun, and more workmanlike.

His TV show was great stuff, though. Still love the guy. But if I'm going to put on some EC, it's going to be Get Happy or This Years Model.

I do love "My Mood Swings" from the Lebowski soundtrack.


And I just caught up with the new Malcolm Gladwell podcast -- titled "Hallelujah" -- where he uses Elvis' "Deportee" as the launchpad for a discussion of innovation. Cool.

Chris Collins said...

I oddly listen to way more "latter day" Elvis Costello than I do "Classic" Elvis Costello. This is a great compilation.

Bill said...

In praise of latter-day Elvis Costello.

First, a confession. Elvis is my Todd Rundgren, Sal. He’s been my number one since I bought Armed Forces because it came with the Live at Hollywood High EP. He’s remained my number one in the intervening 37 or so years, through the highs (way too many to count) and the lows [Goodbye Cruel World, North (love the concept, but the songs just aren’t there), Secret Profane and Sugarcane (ditto)].

I really like how Costello continues to stretch his craft—he doesn’t rest on his accomplishments. He collaborates with the Roots or Burt Bacharach, or does a tribute album to—and with!—Allen Toussaint, just like those old jazz collaborations like “Louis Armstrong Sings the Duke Ellington Songbook.” There are great songs on all these albums, and indeed across all his later catalogue. I get that the guy’s written a lot of songs, and maybe the best ones are from many years ago. But, as another commenter noted, I listen more to the later albums than the classics, because there’s always something new to discover.

And finally, in praise of National Ransom. I do agree that the production is a little brittle, especially on the up-tempo songs. And unfortunately the title track that leads off the album is the worst offender. But dive past that into “Jimmie Standing in the Rain” and be transported to the world of a lonely figure with a third class ticket in his pocket, tweed coat turned up against the fog. Or, on Stations of the Cross, to an unknown torture room in some banana republic. The album is filled with great tunes, great lyrics, great performances. It’s my favorite Elvis album of the last 1t5 years—and like you, I thought Momofuku was a blast.

A couple of years back I made a latter-day mix for a friend of mine who hadn’t listened since probably Imperial Bedroom or so. I started at The Delivery Man and ended at National Ransom (Wise Up Ghost hadn’t come out yet). You can compare the list below.

Go Away
Monkey to Man
Tears, Tears, and More Tears
Stations of the Cross
Heart Shaped Bruise
Down Among the Wines and Spirits
Every Day I Write the Book (Live Spectacular Singing Songbook)
Stella Hurt
Who’s Gonna Help Brother Get Further?
The Crooked Line
Beyond Belief (Live solo on BBC Radio 2 )
Jimmie Standing in the Rain
The Sharpest Thorn

Bill said...

Oh, and one other thing. Elvis is an exciting and generous performer. Even this deep into his career, he still surprises. The solo show I saw in Morristown at the end of 2013 was pretty amazing, with a set list ranging from pre-My Aim Is True material all the way up to Wise Up Ghost songs (including 2 that were only on the deluxe edition). [Check out the setlist here:]

If you get a chance to catch either of his upcoming shows in NY this fall (one solo, one with the Imposters), I think you won't be disappointed.

Rick said...

i really enjoy his Tokyo storm warning tune. what an colossal musical genius all way round-

wardo said...

Once a year I give When I Was Cruel another chance, and it never succeeds. (Same thing happens with Dylan's Desire, so I don't see that changing after 30 years either.)

But anytime there's some love for Delivery Man and North, I'm happy.

Steve Mc said...

BBJ - I think GCW was something of a turning point - after putting out at least 1 album per year with the Attractions for 8 years, he took a break, relatively speaking, did King Of America. When he returned to the Attractions for Blood and Chocolate it felt, at the time, like a much more self conscious attempt to sound like they used to. Having said that, it is still a great album and one of my favourites.

I'm sure I've posted this before, but just in case - back in the 80's a friend, living on a Scottish island, who was a big Costello fan tried to commit suicide. He survived and, to cheer him up, some of his mates thought it would be a good idea to get hIm the new EC album, not realising the title - Goodby Cruel World...

I agree completely that there's a lot of great music in his later albums. I'd defend Alibi, having see him deliver a fantastic version in Glasgow last month. I'd also argue for Tart. It's always good to see Momofuku get acknowledged. A criminally under-rated album.