Tuesday, October 9, 2012

166. Imperial Bedroom. Mellow Costello

Album: Imperial Bedroom
Artist: Elvis Costello
Genre: Pop
Year: 1982


  1. Beyond Belief
  2. Tears Before Bedtime
  3. Shabby Doll
  4. The Long Honeymoon
  5. Man Out of Time
  6. Almost Blue
  7. ...And in Every Home
  8. The Loved Ones
  9. Human Hands
  10. Kid About It
  11. Little Savage
  12. Boy with a Problem
  13. Pidgin English
  14. You Little Fool
  15. Town Cryer

Two albums ago I wrote about Elvis Costello's debut album My Aim Is True. I talked about how he wrote a good song and could put together a good lyric.

On this countdown we've progressed two albums to Imperial Bedroom but Costello released five albums in between his debut and this one and showed a definite musical progression. We'll encounter his second album later in the list, we've already seen his third lower in the countdown which means his first three albums are considered by Rolling Stone to be among the greatest ever made.

Album number 4 was probably destined for greatness as well but Costello got drunk one night and had a few derogatory things to say about Ray Charles and James Brown (the n-word was used which wasn't a classy move). His comments were reported in the press and suddenly Elvis found himself having to give one of those sickly, grovely press conferences in which he had to try and prove he wasn't a racist which is basically impossible to do without formally announcing your engagement to an African tribeswoman. Costello decided to try and prove he wasn't prejudiced against black people by recording an album heavily influenced by soul music. Two years later he surprised everyone by releasing an album made up entirely of Country and Western Covers which makes me wonder if he got drunk somewhere, made some choice comments about the deep south and felt the need to atone in musical form before the word got out.

Either way the point is that by the time he came to record Imperial Bedroom he was still an artist with a  huge range of influences but he was now someone who had mastered a range of styles. He's done soul and country, he can do proto-punk and pull of a good ballad. Catchy Pop is definitely his forte and he can rock and roll effortlessly. In a few short years he'd gone from an unknown to a commercial success without the confining straight jacket of fan expectations.

Entering a studio with that level of freedom he managed to produce another great album. The well crafted tunes are there along with the biting lyrics but this time Costello sounds a lot more confident with his own voice. He can really sing and while he sometimes lapses into a decidedly UK-Punk sounding sneer (most notably on Pidgin English) on the gorgeous ballad Almost Blue his voice has a wonderfully soulful tone that seems to come to the listener via a smoky club straight out of Golden Era Hollywood.

Elvis Costello was a true original when he recorded his debut album and never settled into any form of predictability or settled into a rut. Music is richer for his presence and your CD collection would be richer for having a few of his albums in your collection. Imperial Bedroom is definitely a good starting point.

Influenced by: Almost everything
Influenced: English alternative pop

Highlight: Almost Blue
Lowlight: Pidgin English

Favourite Amazon Customer Review Quote: "Sorry, "begging the question" does NOT mean "asking the question" or "provoking the question"; it means assuming in your argument a priori the very thing your argument attempts to prove. "Begging the question" is a logical fallacy, more formally known as "petitio principii".

-I'm sorry but someone who dedicates half their amazon review to correcting someone else's misuse of an English cliche is not someone I'd like to meet at a party.

So is this a bedroom you'd like to be invited into or would you give it a miss? Let me know below

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