My Record Collection 62

Elvis Costello – I had seen him on Top of the Pops, a geeky spindly post punk singer.  The song was (The Angles Wanna Wear My) Red Shoes -and it was a breath of fresh air after the excesses of punk.  Then after Alison left me in Crete she also left behind a cassette of his first album My Aim Is True.  For many reasons (least of which that it was good) I played the tape to bits and eventually bought the album.  It was released in 1977 but I caught up with a few years later.  What a debut, exceedingly confident and well-written songs, produced by Nick Lowe on the cheap, but it has stood the test of time.  Best songs the single and the follow-up ‘Watching The Detectives’ (she’s filing her nails while they’re dragging the lake) and of course the classic ‘Alison (My Aim Is True)’.  I had most of his early records on cassette having sold the original records and am slowly rebuying him on CD; but he has been incredibly productive with over 30 studio albums already and still going strong.  I recently bought a 5 album box-set of mid-eighties records.   First up is Blood and Chocolate (1986).  Not my very favourite of his, a bit too much of a rough mix, the vocals seem blurred and a bit too screamy – but still, some good songs. ‘I Want You’ – a desperate love song, ‘Blue Chair’ and ‘Battered Old Bird’ are pretty good too.  Maybe I just like the quieter Elvis than the shouting one.   His next year’s effort Spike was really excellent – this was for a few weeks my favourite album.  A real mixture of styles and even an instrumental. Songs about innocent men hung, hatred of Thatcher, two songs co-written with McCartney, and a couple of love songs for good measure.  Something about the record just pulls you along from song to song.  Favourites are ‘Deep Dark Truthful Mirror’ ‘God’s Comic’ and ‘Baby Plays Around’ – but really hard to choose from so many great songs.  1991’s Mighty Like A Rose was a bit of a mixed bag, some good songs and some which sounded a bit desperate – I suppose all Artists must reach a point 15 years into their career when they wonder if they are still relevant?  Still a handful of good songs – ‘All grown Up’ and ‘Harper’s Bazaar’ and ‘So Like Candy’ (another co-write with McCartney).  But altogether a bit of a disappointment I felt.

1994’s Brutal Youth is another record that failed to really excite me….at the time.  But now on hearing it again, it is quite good – though like most of his albums patchy; too many desperate shouting songs – as if by raising his voice he gets the emotion over better, when his quieter sung stuff has all the emotion you could want.  Anyway, best songs ‘You tripped at every step’ and ‘Rocking horse Road’.

Better was 95’s Kojak Variety, a covers album of mostly obscure and early blues songs with a couple of better known songs included – Dylan’s ‘I Threw it All Away’ and the Kinks ‘Days’.  Although most of the songs were new to me they sound pretty good sung by Costello – and on first listening they might have been his own compositions.  An interesting record but not one of his very best.  I basically stopped buying him around this time, just picking up the occasional charity shop offering.   One of these was All This Wasted Beauty – and it is really pretty good.  A bit slower mostly and better for it, it somehow seems a tad ridiculous when older singers try to belt it out like they were still teenagers.  Doing a bit of research I find that these songs had all been written with other Artists in mind; he did offer them and a few were recorded.  Best songs; the title track and ‘Other End Of The Telescope’, and ‘Poor Fractured Atlas’.  Obviously Costello was writing far more material than he could record as many of his records have been later re-released with extra songs.  Another charity shop buy was The Delivery Man (2002).   This is a more American sounding album, amplified by duets with Alison Krauss and Emmylou Harris.  Still a couple of out and out rockers but not a bad record all told – best songs; ‘There’s a Story in Your Voice’. ‘Nothing Clings Like Ivy’ and ‘Heart Shaped Bruise’ – which surprise surprise are all sad slow songs. Last but not least is a compilation of early hits called Girls Girls Girls; excellent and a joy to listen to.    And it makes me realise that maybe this is all I need, all the other albums are okay but sometimes The Greatest Hits is all you need. Not that that has ever slowed me down…

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