Tomorrow, I will finally get to see the incomparable Elvis Costello backed by his current band of choice, The Imposters. Although The Imposters are Elvis’ most musically accomplished bands and are two-thirds the same band as his original backing band, The Attractions. I am just so lucky and blessed to be able to see the rocker version of Elvis, regardless of the name of his backing band.
Therefore, today, I would like to give my list of My 20 Favorite Elvis Costello Albums. Let’s roll!
20. Goodbye Cruel World (1984, with The Attractions). This was an Elvis sell-out attempt that outright failed. Yet, the album has a certain charm to it. And, any time one can get Daryl Hall to duet with him, that’s all thumbs up from me.
19. All This Useless Beauty (1996, with The Attractions). By the time the Nineties rolled around, Costello was appeasing his audience, his albums were no longer masterpieces. This one was his second best of the decade.
18. Secret, Profane & Sugarcane (2010, solo). I was recovering from a surgery, when my older son dropped this album on me. I had written off Elvis, but this album showed Elvis still hand the goods
17. Wise Up (2013, with The Roots). So, Elvis teams up with late night’s favorite band, giving all of hope for a classic album. Instead, the album was just average.
16. Momofuku (2008, with The Imposters). This album is just okay, but it sure was swell to hear Costello rocking out in the new century.
15. Almost Blue (1981, The Attractions). This album showed us that Elvis and his Attractions were very versatile as they tackled an album full of country standards and favorites. This album introduced me to the songwriting of Gram Parsons.
14. The Delivery Man (2004, with The Imposters). His first album with The Imposters, a fun rollick in Costello rock songs. After this album, it would be another four albums of experiments before he would return to the well of his youth.
13. The River in Reverse (2006, with Allen Toussaint). Elvis teamed up with this New Orleans R&B legend that allows Elvis to spread his R&B wings.
12. Spike (1989). Leading up to the recording of this album, Costello had been writing songs with Paul McCartney, which gave us hope for an album of duets. Instead, we got two separate albums with a smattering of the songs on each album. McCartney’s album from this time period is Flowers in the Dirt. McCartney just re-released that album remastered along with a bonus disc of demos that he and Costello made. It makes me wish they had stuck with the original plan of an album of duets.
11. Blood & Chocolate (1986, with The Attractions). In 1986, Costello released two albums. The first, King of America, was a left-hand turn into Americana music that disappoint his label. So, Elvis got The Attractions back together and blasted out this album full of venom. This may be Costello at his angriest, which says a lot.
10. National Ransom (2010, solo). Why did it take an Englishman to make the greatest statement about the financial collapse?
9. Punch the Clock (1983, with The Attractions). I really don’t think Costello consciously made this album a pop record. I think it was influenced by the music of the time, which was lightly influenced by Motown that got on the radio, which was Elvis’ wheelhouse to begin with. Contains his only Top 20 US song, “Everyday I Write the Book”.
8. King of America (1986, attributed to The Costello Show). If this album had been recently released, we would describe it as the music being Americana. But, in the mid-Eighties, people just labeled it “weird”. This one only grows in stature as the years move on.
7. Painted From Memory (1998, with Burt Bacharach). What began as a gag in the first Austin Powers movies with Elvis singing a Burt Bacharach song brilliantly, followed by the two men doing a duet with another Bacharach song in the second Powers movie, influenced the two men to collaborate on an album. And, the two gave us this masterpiece.
6. Trust (1981, with The Attractions). From the time Elvis burst on the scene during the heady days of punk in 1977 through the being of the MTV revolution in 1982, Costello released eight albums, six of which are considered to be stone-cold classics. This one is one of the last in the lineage, but his well was deep at the time.
5. Imperial Bedroom (1982, with The Attractions). Costello went from punk-infused pop through power pop to this sophisticated batch of pop songs. This will be his last full-blast classic album for a while.
4. This Year’s Model (1978, with The Attractions). Costello’s sophomore album blows the roof off the studio with a flat-out rocking classic called “Pump It Up”.
3. “Get Happy!!” (1980, with The Attractions). The group’s second power pop album has 21 songs crammed on the album because Elvis wanted to see how many two- to three-minute songs he could put on a vinyl album without any kind of aural distortion.
2. “My Aim Is True” (1977, solo). The rumor has been that Huey Lewis’ original band, Clover, was Costello’s backing band on this album. I guess that was untrue. But, who cares? My generation had our Elvis, and his surname was Costello!
1. “Armed Forces” (1979, with The Attractions). Here is Costello’s most powerful album. It is lined with power pop classic after classic. Plus, Elvis was at his most consistently angriest in his career. This album is worth the price if only for Costello’s cover of the Nick Lowe-penned “(What’s So Funny ‘Bout) Peace, Love & Understanding.”
The man has had one helluva of career. Unfortunately, he has not had the quantity of hit songs and albums that his music deserves. But few artists are as in control of their career as Elvis Costello is. And, I FINALLY get to see him perform tomorrow!
Did I mention that?