Friday, 3 August 2018

Elvis Costello - King Of America (1986)


Released February 1986

Recorded in Los Angeles

Two years since his last album with The Attractions, which had been the half-realised and patchy "Goodbye Cruel World", Elvis Costello returned with a session band of US musicians steeped in country rock and folk and produced this interesting album. He returned to his folk-rock roots for much of the material on the album, and the material features some of his finest songs for many a year.  His muse seemed to have well and truly returned, and the album sees him completely rejuvenated. It was the kick up the backside he needed to give himself. His days as a punk anti-hero were now long gone. He was now well on the path to being an established, mature, creative artist. Singles and chart success did not matter anymore.


1. Brilliant Mistake
2. Lovable
3. Our Little Angel
4. Don't Let Me Be Misunderstood
5. Glitter Gulch
6. Indoor Fireworks
7. Little Palaces
8. I'll Wear It Proudly
9. American Without Tears
10. Eisenhower Blues
11. The Poisoned Rose
12. The Big Light
13. Jack Of All Parades
14. Suit Of Lights
15. Sleep Of The Just

The album is absolutely pack full of excellent songs, and also, despite its rootsy edge, the sound quality is excellent and that befits the musicianship on view. There is a huge country tinge to a lot of the material, but it is one that backs Costello's wonderful lyrics, as opposed to 1981's "Almost Blue", which was populated with covers of country standards. It is also very much an album of Americana. The catchy, lilting acoustic folk of the title track exemplifies this. A cynical tale of the mainstream US media. "Lovable" is a rockabilly-style bluesy romp, while "Our Little Angel" is total steel guitar country, but it has a captivating hook to it. Costello's cover of The Animals' sixties classic "Don't Let Me Be Misunderstood" is more than convincing. It is vibrant and powerful, suiting him down to the ground.

"Glitter Gulch" is back to the jaunty, folky country blues and "Indoor Fireworks" is a typical Costello ballad with country airs. "Little Palaces" and "I'll Wear It Proudly" are classic Costello slow numbers, full to the brim with cutting lyrics. I love "American Without Tears" - a folky, moving number concerning GI Brides from World War Two who left Coventry for a sad life in the USA with their whirlwind-romance GI husbands. "Eisenhower Blues" is a full on rocky blues thumper, and "The Big Light" has a fast-paced shuffling country blues style too, with a sort of stand up, throbbing bass groove. "The Poisoned Rose" is a mournful lament of a ballad.

The album ends with three copper-bottomed Costello corkers - "Jack Of All Parades", "Suit Of Lights" and "Sleep Of The Just". The former are very Attractions-like in style, full of uplifting piano riffs, but enhanced by the breadth of the musicianship and slick production of the team involved with the production of this album. The latter, and closing track, is an emotive song about a girl and her unfortunate dalliance with a soldier, sung over a haunting organ backing. It is a harrowing tale upon which to close what has been a varied and constantly interesting album. Up there with Costello's best of all time.


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