Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Elvis Costello and the Attractions Imperial Bedroom 1982

Everyone by now knows of the greatness of the first three Elvis Costello records. Or doesn't care. The fact is rarely challenged, and for good reason. From 1977-1979 My Aim Is True, This Year's Model, and Armed Forces represented some fine songcraft, a strong motivating force for each record, and a display of unbridled rock sensibility. They were great records led by an artist hitting an early pinnacle. The first one was made by Costello with the SoCal country-rock band Clover, the next two were with the inimitable Attractions.

But Elvis didn't really slow down much after that, either. 1980's Get Happy and 1981's Trust and the countrified Almost Blue hold up well, even next to the first three.

And in 1982 Elvis and the Attractions made what is arguably their last great record, Imperial Bedroom. At least that would be my argument.

The record is rich with Costello's overly-wordy lyrics, displaying remarkable depth and insight into human relationships, especially the dysfunctional ones. The record explores love from so many angles and in just as many forms. It is Costello's best "theme" record, with complex melodies, great lyrics, and the Attractions firing on all cylinders. Rife with big, technicolor arrangements, and some of Costello's most intimate vocal delivery. The recording makes the band bigger than life, Beatles' recording engineer Geoff Emerick producing,and giving the record an Abbey Road-like sheen. It's a lovely, lush and immediate sound.

Beyond Belief, Tears Before Bedtime, Man Out Of Time, Human Hands, Boy With A Problem, and You Little Fool are all classics (I could have just listed all the songs). But it's not a record that you play for the songs. The songs, in this case, are for the record. Sit down and listen to side one, and the only thing to do after that is listen to side two. This record is way too good for random play. It cries out for you to listen and enjoy from front to back.

If you haven't heard it in a while, put it on. If you haven't heard it, you should. You'll be richly rewarded. One of rock's finest talents doing one killer record.

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