Just how great is Elvis Costello

Just got thru listening to Secret, Profane and Sugarcane for the umpteenth time and just sat back in awe and you know this album is in the running with at least 5 of his other albums as my favorite Elvis album. I guess my point is I have over the last 10 years became so conscious of what a treasure he is and really didn't give home the credit he deserves and would like to now. Every album is so different and he will take you down the road he wants you to travel.
I really like Elvis Costello too.  "My Aim Is True" is definitely in my Top Ten albums of all time.

I think I've finally gotten everything he's ever done on vinyl.  It's taken awhile.  He has been very prolific.  He's recorded 24 albums either as a solo act or with the Attractions or the Imposters.
There is an interesting documentary currently playing on Showtime called "Elvis Costello: Mystery Dance". I particularly enjoyed the point they made that Costello is respected by other artists not only for his musicianship and arranging capabilities, but also for his ability to share the spotlight highlighting whoever he may be playing with at the time. He is completely unselfish. This attitude was especially prevalent with his work with Allen Toussaint in New Orleans after Katrina.  
I have his 7" records collection. They sound better than LPs.
Elvis Costello is a unique talent.  I won't say that he is the best, but I wouldn't place any post 1950 singer/songwriter above him.
Pretty damn good and very prolific.
Happy Listening!
Declan, Elvis Costello IS the king of rock ’n roll for me. My list of favorite albums from him would read more like a discography than a best of. Read Unfaithful Music & Disappearing Ink it is a hoot. That guy from Graceland doesn’t even come close to this cat!

Love "King of America" love the irony.
EC does have a great sense of humor! IMO, he gets better w/ age.
And  with all his credits , let's not forget that he is married to Dianna Krall, I tip my hat to you sir. 
Elvis is an amazing talent. From My Aim True to Almost Blue to his collaborations with Alan Toissant, Burt Bacharach and the gang on The Lost Basement Tapes demonstrate his creativity, diversity and talent.......and a stud to boot with Dianna Krall as his wife. Long live the king!!!
Elvis is an amazing talent. From My Aim True to Almost Blue to his collaborations with Alan Toissant, Burt Bacharach and the gang on The Lost Basement Tapes demonstrate his creativity, diversity and talent.......and a stud to boot with Dianna Krall as his wife. Long live the king!!!
I think Declan MacManus is every bit as good as EC!
How great is Elvis Costello? He's so great that he gets to be married to Diana Krall. 
I may kind of, sort of dissent here.  Elvis Costello is pretty good, not sure about great.  

I own a lot of Elvis Costello music (19 of his first 21 albums ... did not go for Juliet Letters or il Sogno)  and yet when I want to listen to EC, I always go back to his first three albums ... 'My Aim is True', 'This Year's Model', and 'Armed Forces'.  When I think of THE truly great Costello song, I vote for 'Alison'.  

I have found that my feelings about EC are like my feelings about Bowie ... living in nostalgia ... hoping that when I buy the next album it will sound more like the early albums that I love so much.  

No need to disrespect on that Guy from Graceland's grave.  Very few could touch him, especially Diana Krall's hubby.  Even he would vomit over that statement.


I cannot get him, but have only heard him on the radio.  What is a good EC album to start with to give him a real chance?

Hi pops;

Granted these albums focus on the early, angry young man, but I still find EC's first three albums all from the late 70's to be his best ... 'My Aim is True', 'This Year's Model', and 'Armed Forces'.  If you like these three albums, then "Blood and Chocolate' may be one to sample,  After that, I can suggest 'Secret, Profane & Sugarcane' from about 6 years ago.  


I like that he does so many different things.  I especially like the tunes he wrote with McCartney--strongly reminiscent of early Beatles yet with their own style and flavor.  You can find them on youtube if nowhere else.
I also prefer Elvis's earlier stuff. While not as consistent as his first three albums, I would include "Get Happy" and "Trust" in my go-to EC selections.

I began to lose interest in the "Imperial Bedroom", "Punch the Clock", and "Goodbye Cruel World" era, and I'm way overdue in acquainting myself with his more recent offerings.   
Pops, I also was one of those that didn't get EC and just kind of brushed his music off but my love for T Bone Burnett drew me to him and I purchased the King of America and struggled with that album for the first few listening and then it seemed to click and I was hooked. I still don't get all his music but My Aim is True, Delivery Man, Secrets, Profane and Sugar Cane and The River In Reverse just move me each differently.

I loved his first album, which I bought as a British import upon it’s initial release. I then liked his second, but didn’t really care for The Attractions. Steve’s piano playing is far too busy for my taste (too many single notes and "tinkling", not enough chords), and the drummer is typically British---not a "pocket" player, instead playing "on top" of the music. The third album I could never get into, and Costello’s ever-increasing vibrato was starting to annoy me. That vibrato is now, imo, completely over-the-top, way overused and excessive.

He then starting doing "theme" albums---a Country music one, a Soul music one, both of which revealed him to be a sincere fan of the music, but a not-particularly distinguished purveyor of it. He's no George Jones or Hank Williams, nor Sam Cooke or Otis Redding. I pretty much lost all interest in him after that. Yup, he’s a talented guy, but the only album of his I kept when weeding out my music collection recently was the King Of America album, his least "British" sounding---no surprise there!

I had a good friend (R.I.P.) who was an excellent songwriter, and a big fan of Brian Wilson and Bob Dylan. I played him the first album, and he didn’t get it. I moved to L.A. in ’79, not seeing him again until the mid-2000’s. By that time, Costello had become his favorite contemporary Pop writer, and he actually said to me "Who needs Brian and Bob when you have Costello?". Then I played him Bob’s Love And Theft album, and he got the answer---HE did!

Can’t say I am familiar with all, or even a lot, of his work, but whenever I hear Costello sing I always think "this guy is a true artist". When he sings he projects CONVICTION and always delivers the message of the song. He has limited vocal chops, but somehow it doesn’t matter nearly as much as it does with better singers who are lesser artists. His recording with Burt Bacharach is a perfect example. I remember thinking "No way!". And it works; love that record. I really need to listen to more of his stuff. Pretty decent symphonic composer too. A real talent.

I have a different take on his relationship with Krall. For me, the fact that he married her is about the only reason that I don’t write her off altogether; iow, there must be something in her singing that I am just not getting. He apparently does; one would think. To my sensibilities, he is much more the artist than she is.
EC has pulled off many interesting concept albums, with a variety of different artists from different genres of Music. Beauty indeed.
Thanks Rich and Tooblue.  I will definitely give them a shot.  

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for my money, the second or third best ever lyricist, and certainly among the top 20 songwriters. cursed with those pipes, he's a bad singer, tho he works hard to overcome with brains and technique. extra points for remaining listenable long past his logical prime.
I realize someone would point a blaspheme finger on me for speaking of Declan’s namesake from Memphis with such seeming disregard. But it is like this, the subject of this thread has penned and performed more of his own songs (as I understand it) than the movie star sang in totality and tried to take credit for between him and the Colonel Tom and their games. Read your history, that’s what stinks like vomit. He was far from the beginning, he was just one of the first caucasian ones to get recognition for rock ’n roll. I’ll give Elvis Presley one credit, if not for him, we may well not have had Declan, or Lennon, or ... the same way. And that would be a true crime, perhaps even a sine.

"Well, I use’ta be disgusted, now I try to be amused..."

Happy Listening!

He's real good, but not in my great category.  Dug his first few LPs, lost interest.  Re D. Krall, so what?  Great to me (in singer/songwriter land) = Dylan, Otis Rush, Muddy, Brother Ray, Neil Young, Joni, Kevin Ayers, Robert Wyatt, John Cale, Lou Reed, Van Morrison, Bowie . . . and quite a few more.  Elvis C. works hard, is sincere and has a whole lotta talent and I have a lot of respect for him.  That said, he just doesn't have quite the magical factor that puts him in the top rank.

After rejecting EC when I first heard his debut LP in 1977, I grew to be a huge fan of all of his work by 1979.  I saw him twice in concert (a great live performer), once in Jersey and once on the pier in NYC, in the early 1980s.  I do own, but rarely play, his sugary-pop LPs (Punch the Clock, Goodbye Cruel World), as well as most of his newer works.  He is a unique talent.  Thankfully, I am able to separate the artist (and his politics) from the art in EC's case.  Heck, my college year book quote was "Clown time is over".
Nice sentiment- bondmanp-
With me, I've had several, no, quite a lot of artists that I've either had a passing interest in or always loved but never purchased many of their lps. EC happens to be one of them. So I just began the journey with MFSL "My Aim Is True". A line in the song "Sneaky Feelings" kind of sums this up, "I still got a long way to go"........
bondmanp, with all due respect, not sure how to separate your musical affections from your politics? If I might, what could you mean by "separating the artist from his politics"? As there has always been more politics in art than in our governing chambers. And I have never found EC to be incredibly outspoken about any particular political issue in the grand scheme of things. Although his storylines are particularly varied and generally more interpersonal than political in focus, I may recall, him having made some comment on governance in rare occasions. Is that where your contention lies? Or perhaps regardless of topic, it’s his demeanor, biting in clarity and somewhat less subdued in candor, especially when imposed upon, but I would expect and respect nothing less from someone so brilliant and lyrical. Just asking.
The first album I bought from him was Spike. Love that album along with king of america, & sugercane. He is creative, and sings with passion. 

r_f_sayles:  Just to expand on my comment, some artists place their politics in their work, some don't, and there is a continuum of how often that occurs that varies by artist.  It has nothing to do with EC's demeanor, as far as I am concerned.  I found his earlier demeanor exciting and pretty cool.

Without going into too much detail, I was very upset that EC fell victim to Roger Waters' irrational anti-Israel pressure and cancelled concerts in Israel, for example.  And occassionally, EC has made political statements to the press, but not in his music, which I have found disturbing.  But overall, I find his infusion of politics into his music to be limited to a song here and there, and not so "in yer face" that it ruins the song for me.  Compared to some artists, EC is only mildly political relative to his extraordinary talent.

There are other artists who seem to speak on political issues more often than they perform in concert or release recordings.  Still others infuse nearly every recording with their politics.  And if those politics really upset me, I simply can't enjoy the music.  That really doesn't happen to me regarding EC. 

In general, I feel that musicians teaching us about political issues is like accountants teacing us about art.  I really don't care what EC or any artist thinks about complex political issues.  And when they feel they are obligated to constantly lecture their fans about politics, they start to appear foolish and small to me, and at some point, their ability to convince me that they are singing with passion and conviction is also diminished.

Not looking to start a flame war here, folks, just replying to the question posted.

Although he doesn't express a coherent political viewpoint there is a fair amount of political/economic commentary running through Elvis Costello's songs.  The clearest case would be his collaboration with Allen Toussaint.

I don't understand why some people don't respect artists who are willing to address political issues.  The arts in general and music specifically have traditional be one of the most important and influential  channels for the expression of political opinions.  Quite literally when soldiers go marching off to war they do it singing songs that somebody wrote.  For me politics and music go hand and hand.  A good example was how during last night's Academy Awards ceremony Public Enemy's "Fight the Power" played over the closing credits.  You don't have to like the message, but if it's well conceived and executed,  you can't ignore it either.  That's the real power of good art done by good artists.
bondmanp, Good to understand a little better what you meant by your comment. I too look to start no flame-out about anyone for their thoughts, freely expressed here. We are actually more in agreement as it were about such things, then apart. I do though find it sad and more than a bit bewildering, perhaps like onhwy61 that there are so many who somehow believe that music/art should be devoid of political commentary entirely. As though we pay to just hear only that which we find agreeable and pleasing to our current state of mind. And I would find that notion to be completely preposterous for some of the same reasons most aptly expressed above. Often, with a little better understanding why, or how we may feel we differ, expresses actually, how far we are not apart...

My original question was, " Just how good is Elvis Costello", and look where this has gone. I am sorry, I listen to music to get away from this B.S. not to have to give thought to politics or any other discussion outside the scope of the music itself and the emotions that it brings to my life.

Sorry, tooblue.  Such is the nature of internet threads.

r_f_sayles - I concure.  Artists are and ought to be free to express themselves however they wish.  Consumers of art are and ought to be free to either enjoy the art or choose something else that pleases them.  Demanding artists create only art with content that conforms to the preferences of certain consumers is silly on its face, and destroys creativity as well as free expression. 

Sorry tooblue, yet just like music lyrics, starting a thread is like putting a record on your TT, you get what you get. Hope I/we haven’t taken it too far off track.

Declan is one of my all time favorite songwriters and musicians and enjoying his work can be easily as complex as the work itself, or not. I love the mindless rockers as much as the ones that actually provoke some understanding or controversy...

Happy EC Listening!


Couldn't agree more. Cheers!
Now, maybe there should be an audiophile website ending in .gov..?
Refocusing now:

Everybody turn up the volume and fire up Trust and listen to "From A Whisper To A Scream" with guest vocals by Glenn Tilbrook of Squeeze.

There, you feel better now, don't you? Cheers,
Much better, thank you.