Posts Tagged ‘Steve Nieve’

Elvis Costello / Brutal Youth 2LP red vinyl

Perhaps realizing that The Juliet Letters was one step too far, especially after the willfully eclectic pair of “Spike” and “Mighty Like a Rose”, Elvis Costello set out to make a straight-ahead rock & roll record with “Brutal Youth”, reuniting with the Attractions (though Bruce Thomas appears on only five tracks) and Nick Lowe (who plays bass on most of the rest). Unfortunately, all this nostalgia and good intentions are cancelled by the retention of producer Mitchell Froom, whose junkyard, hazily cerebral productions stand in direct contrast to the Attractions’ best work. Likely, Froom’s self-conscious production appealed to Costello, since it makes “Brutal Youth” look less like a retreat, but it severely undercuts the effectiveness of the music, since it lacks guts, no matter how smugly secure it is in its tempered “experimentation.” Costello certainly had the raw elements for a dynamic little record here the band, when they can be heard, sound good, and many songs (highlighted by “Pony St.,” “Kinder Murder,” “13 Steps Lead Down,” “You Tripped at Every Step,” and “20% Amnesia”) are fresh, effective evocations of his classic work — but it needed to be punchier to succeed. He needed to be produced by Lowe, instead of just having him sit in on bass. Elvis Costello’s wonderful “Brutal Youth” album from 1994, which featured the full Attractions line up on a number of songs, limited edition 2LP . The album was produced by Mitchell Froom and was well received, reaching number two in the UK album charts, thanks in part to excellent word-of-mouth and a top thirty hit in “Sulky Girl”.

Although a relatively long album at 15 songs, it’s a real cracker with some wonderful material, including moving ballads like ‘All The Rage’, ‘Favourite Hour’ and ‘Still Too Soon To Know’ and fiercer, spiky numbers like ‘Just About Glad’, ‘20% Amnesia’ and ‘My Science Fiction Twin’.

Anyway, Brutal Youth is issued as this double coloured vinyl pressing via Music On Vinyl on 31st July 2020. It’s limited to just 1000 units with only 300 earmarked for the UK.

The record mostly features Costello with The Attractions Steve Nieve, Pete Thomas and Nick Lowe (on bass), but original Attractions member Bruce Thomas does play the bass on five tracks.

Elvis Costello Armed Forces SDE

As a follow-up to the agitation of “This Year’s Model,” 1979’s “Armed Forces” might have had even more rage to it — but it was better disguised, as Costello, his band the Attractions and Lowe committed to putting more of a pop sheen on the songs, trading organ for synths or, on the politicized “Oliver’s Army,” a piano sound they borrowed from ABBA’s “Dancing Queen.”

“By the time we got to ‘Armed Forces,’ we had the idea we wanted to make an actual studio record,” Elvis Costello recalls. “And that was our version of what a studio sounded like. We played cassettes in the station wagon driving around America for the first time, of the same four or five records round and around. Little wonder that became our language for that next record, things that we were listening to in that moment — including ABBA. We put aside the rock ’n’ roll, Small Faces/Rolling Stones references of ‘This Year’s Model’ and into it came the synthesizer, which came from those David Bowie and Iggy Pop records — ‘Station to Station,’ ‘Low,’ ‘Heroes,’ ‘The Idiot,’ ‘Lust for Life.’” Then, considering more stripped-down techno influences, he adds, “I don’t think we thought we were making a Giorgio Moroder record, but we liked the mechanistic sound of Kraftwerk, even if we weren’t going to make records that were that austere. I wanted the emotion in them.”

Guitar music figured in — barely. “Certainly ‘Party Girl’ has a reference to the Beatles, obviously in the arpeggio at the end. There are some Cheap Trick songs that sound like that too, though, and we loved Cheap Trick. So were we ripping off the Beatles, or were we just ‘Hey, Cheap Trick — I like them’?” He hears us chuckle at the idea he might’ve been influenced as much in the moment by Rick Nielsen as George Harrison. “You’re laughing,” he says, “but I’m deadly serious!”

Columbia Records added a cover of Nick Lowe’s “(What’s So Funny ’Bout) Peace, Love and Understanding,” recorded for another project, to the album. “They thought it sounded more rock ’n’ roll than many of the other things, and that’s what they wanted. This record didn’t suit them at all.” Although Costello says of the song that “in my mind, it’s not even on this album” (and it wasn’t, on the original U.K. version), he’s not unhappy that it became so wildly popular that fans have expected to hear his version of Lowe’s tune closing out most of his shows for 40 years now.

“I think there was a little irony in the way Nick recorded it originally,” Costello says, recalling that Lowe first had the idea of gently satirizing hippie sentiments with “Peace, Love and Understanding.” “But if you’ve ever heard him perform it in recent years, he sings it very much like the lament that it deserves to be. I think both approaches to the song are really appropriate. I like all the versions of the song that I’ve heard. Sometimes it takes you a moment to hear it again in a different way, but I’ve had reason to sing it as a ballad, as a rocker and somewhere in between. I’ve heard Bruce Springsteen sing it and Chris Cornell sing it, and Josh Homme sang it with Sharon Van Etten. I mean,  there’s some really good versions. Nick’s version with a choir earlier this year was beautiful. You know, it shouldn’t be needed now, but we still have to sing it. How long, how long must we sing this song — as Bono said, you know?”

The “Armed Forces” boxed set is coming out on vinyl as well as digitally with several extra LPs’ or EPs’ worth of live material from ’79. He picked out only the performances he thought were great from that period, he says. “I appreciate the Grateful Dead fans really want all those ‘Dick’s Picks’ releases and want the differences between each show, but I don’t really think there’s a lot of difference between the performances over the course of one year of the Attractions. It’s more about the atmosphere of some of those shows. One is from a show in Sydney where there was a riot. You can hear the show just about to go out of control. I love records that fade out just before it goes somewhere; that one fades just before it goes somewhere, but nowhere good. ‘Live at Hollywood High’ has a great atmosphere because we were in this high school gym, and it slightly ironic that there were no high school students at that gig, just some 35-year-old divorcees dressed like teenagers, and record executives. And Linda Ronstadt apparently was at that show. I’m really thrilled to know that she actually heard ‘Party Girl’ at that show for the first time, and then went ahead and recorded it. Not that I was particularly grateful as my younger, very snotty self.”

Costello’s biggest project yet for 2020: a deluxe 9-disc vinyl “Super Deluxe Edition” ofArmed Forces with three 12-inch LPs, three 10-inch LPs, and three 7-inch singles including 23 previously unreleased live tracks and the complete contents of the previous Rhino/Edsel deluxe edition. It’s due from UMe on November 6th.

Armed Forces was the third studio album from Elvis Costello and second with The Attractions, arriving in January 1979. It was originally conceived under the title Emotional Fascism, which says a lot about the artist’s state of mind while writing and recording. Much was made at the time about Costello moving away from the punk sound of its predecessors and embracing a new wave style, but (then as now) genre tags were simply reductive when it came to Costello’s oeuvre. He brought a deep and abiding love of pop, rock, and R&B in all their forms to Armed Forces, turning in some of his most beloved compositions including “Oliver’s Army” (anchored by Steve Nieve’s ABBA-inspired keyboard riff) about the Troubles in Northern Ireland; the tense, paranoid “Green Shirt”; and elegant, haunting “Accidents Will Happen,” inspired by Burt Bacharach and Hal David’s “Anyone Who Had a Heart.” One of the LP’s most famed songs wasn’t on the original U.K. issue, however. “(What’s So Funny ‘Bout) Peace, Love, and Understanding” was introduced by Nick Lowe – the producer of Armed Forces – by his band Brinsley Schwarz in 1974 and re-recorded by Costello, The Attractions, and producer Lowe in 1978 credited to “Nick Lowe & His Sound.” Costello’s biting rendition was added to the U.S. version of the album where it replaced “Sunday’s Best.”

Various configurations of Armed Forces have been released over the years. The original U.K. LP had the “elephant stampede” cover, while the U.S. edition had the “splattered paint” artwork. Early pressings included a three-track EP, Live at Hollywood High, with a live version of “Accidents Will Happen” as well as “Alison” and “Watching the Detectives.” Rykodisc’s 1993 CD issue based on the original U.K. sequence appended “What’s So Funny” and the EP plus five additional bonus cuts. The 2002 deluxe edition, released by Rhino in the U.S. and Edsel in the U.K., upped the ante with an entire bonus disc of 17 selections including all of the Ryko bonuses and a generously expanded Hollywood High boasting nine songs. In 2007, Universal’s Hip-o imprint controversially restored Costello’s catalogue to its original form on CD, meaning that Armed Forces lost all additional material other than “What’s So Funny.” In 2010, the June 4th, 1978 Hollywood High show received its first standalone release on CD with 20 total songs.

After the disappointing string of early releases in the wake of the superlative Rhino/Edsel series, UMe has thrown down the gauntlet with this presentation of Armed Forces. The set has been personally curated by Costello. It’s housed in a slipcase bearing the Barney Bubbles “splattered paint” artwork and in effect expands on the 2002 Rhino/Edsel deluxe edition in the vinyl format. It contains:

  • New remaster by Bob Ludwig and EC of Armed Forces from the original tapes, “with the sonic fidelity matching the original 1979 U.K. pressing”;
  • Sketches for Emotional Fascism 10-inch, with four previously issued bonus tracks;
  • Riot at the Regent: Live in Sydney ’78 10-inch, with six previously unreleased live tracks;
  • Europe ’79: Live at Pinkpop 12-inch, with 13 previously unreleased live tracks;
  • Christmas in the Dominion: Live 24th December ’78 10-inch, with four previously unreleased live tracks;
  • Live at Hollywood High and Elsewhere 12-inch, with the 10 live tracks included on the 2002 Rhino/Edsel deluxe edition of Armed Forces;
  • “Oliver’s Army” b/w “Big Boys (Demo)” 7-inch single;
  • “Accidents Will Happen” b/w “Busy Bodies (Alternate)” 7-inch single;
  • “American Squirm” b/w “(What’s So Funny ‘Bout) Peace, Love, and Understanding” – Nick Lowe & His Sound 7-inch single.

In addition to the nine vinyl platters, the box also includes seven notebooks including updated liner notes by Elvis (nearly 10,000 words in length) and his handwritten lyrics, plus a replica of the “grenade and gun” poster and original postcards of Elvis and the Attractions: keyboard maestro Steve Nieve, drummer Pete Thomas, and bassist Bruce Thomas.

Elvis Costello Variety Legends Embed

Elvis Costello has released a new album, “Hey Clockface”, recorded in Helsinki, Paris, and New York. The album, released October. 30th, is his first new music since 2018, and is at times playful, on other occasions introspective. The highlight is its jaunty title track; listen to it and many of the other tracks below. Hey Clockface was recorded in Helsinki, Paris and New York and mixed by Sebastian Krys in Los Angeles. Following the solo recording of tracks, No Flag, Hetty O’Hara Confidential and We Are All Cowards Now at Suomenlinnan Studio, Helsinki by Eetü Seppälä in February 2020, Costello immediately travelled to Paris for a weekend session at Les Studios Saint Germain. Costello tells us, “I sang live on the studio floor, directing from the vocal booth. We cut nine songs in two days. We spoke very little.  His strikingly good 31st studio album, “Hey Clockface,” which dropped October 30th, and a deluxe vinyl boxed set commemorating his third album, the 1979 masterpiece “Armed Forces,” which arrives just a week later, on November 6th. There is a lot of clock-punching, or smashing, to go around in this sudden flurry of releases.

These old and new works are almost ridiculously incomparable in style, but there is a striking commonality. “Hey Clockface” doesn’t sound remotely like his last album, “Look Now,” which didn’t sound like any of the ones before it. And “Armed Forces” found Costello already shedding the lean, frantic signature sound of the prior record, “This Year’s Model,” to embrace the possibilities of the studio in a more ambitious and even grandiose way. 

Watch the video for “Hey Clockface”/”How Can You Face Me”

Almost everything the musicians played was a spontaneous response to the song I was singing. I’d had a dream of recording in Paris like this, one day.” The assembled album, Hey Clockface is “An Elvis Costello & Sebastian Krys Production” following on from their work together on Elvis Costello and The Imposters Grammy-winning album Look Now. The motion picture of We Are All Cowards Now by Eamon Singer and Arlo McFurlow features images of flowers and pistols, smoke and mirrors, tombstones and monuments, courage and cowardice, peace love and misunderstanding. Specifically, what Costello had done was take time out before and during those tour dates to book quick, experimental sessions — by himself, as a clanging one-man rock band in Helsinki, and with a jazzy combo of Parisians put together by his keyboard player Steve Nieve in France. (He had even booked time with his touring band and his old producer Nick Lowe in London, with a whole different set of songs earmarked to work on, but those plans got scotched and will wait for another day and another album.

The ensemble, dubbed, “Le Quintette Saint Germain” by Costello, was recruited for these dates by Steve Nieve (who plays grand piano, upright piano, organ, mellotron and melodica) and features Mickaél Gasche on trumpet, flugel horn and serpent, Pierre-François “Titi” Dufour on cello, and the drums, percussion and high harmonies of Ajuq. Listen to the beautiful instrumentation on “The Whirlwind”

Reed player Renaud-Gabriel Pion plays contrabass clarinet, bass clarinet, Bb clarinet, tenor saxophone, bass flute and cor anglais. The Paris sessions were recorded by François Delabrière. Watch the video for “We Are All Cowards Now”

The New York sessions were produced by composer, arranger and trumpet player, Michael Leonhart in collaboration with guitarists, Bill Frisell and Nels Cline and completed, lyrically and vocally by Costello, “via Electrical Wire.” The musician had been teasing the first two songs’ release in late spring and early summer with a series of tweets that featured some of the songs’ lyrics and illustrations from the music videos. Costello performs Hammond organ, Fender Jazzmaster, upright piano, Rhythm Ace and “all other noises.”

“She could kill a man with a single stroke,” he sings on “Hetty O’Hara Confidential.” “She is not the one you want to provoke.” Watch the lyric video for “Hetty O’Hara Confidential” 

As with all of us, 2020 has been a memorable year for Elvis Costello, though he has several unique reasons. On February 14th, he became an Officer of the Order of the British Empire, at a ceremony overseen by Prince Charles at Buckingham Palace.

And though his celebrated career is decades old, Costello had never won a Grammy Award for one of his albums. That all changed at the 62nd Grammy Awards, held on January . The musician won for Best Traditional Pop Vocal Album for his Oct. 2018 release, Look Now. The legend had previously won in 1999 for Best Pop Collaboration with Vocals, with Burt Bacharach.

“You may be joking, but I don’t get the gag,” he sings in “No Flag.” “I sense no future, but time seems to drag.” Watch the lyric video for “No Flag” There’s some days where none of it matters, and it doesn’t mean anybody would want to stay there forever, but maybe it’s better to write that out in a song.” Costello says he has no need to “live in the past, trying to summon up some old kind of fury. Because I’ve got all the fury that I need right now. Put on ‘No Flag’ and tell me which track on ‘This Year’s Model’ is more aggressive than that. There isn’t one.”

All songs written by Elvis Costello except as noted. On Aug. 28, Costello surprised his audience with the release of a spoken word song, “Phonographic Memory,” described as “the B-Side of the recently released, ‘We Are All Cowards Now’“Phonographic Memory” imagines a post-war ceremony involving an archive recording of the voice of Orson Welles and someone identified only as “President Swift”. The recording takes the form of a short story recited over an open-tuned acoustic guitar soundtrack and as such is unique in Costello’s recorded catalogue.

Elvis Costello Look Now artwork

Elvis Costello might be one of the most dexterous and accomplished pop songwriters of the rock era, but he’s not above dipping back into his own well on occasion. The singer has spent a lot of time in recent years touring and performing 1982’s Imperial Bedroom, so it makes sense that his latest outing, Look Now, smacks of that record’s baroque pop flair. With The Imposters back in tow, Costello’s first record of new music in five years is an intricately detailed and meticulously crafted affair, one longer on arrangements and musicianship than rock and roll spit and vinegar.

A veritable jack of all musical trades, Costello has canvassed just about every genre imaginable over the course of his 40-year career. He can play the part of the crooning balladeer (“Look Now”, “Stripping Paper”, “Photographs Can Lie” ) just as easily as he can the fiery bandleader (“Mr. and Mrs. Hush”, “Unwanted Number”). Look Now album boasts a little of both, but, generally speaking, the record is a relaxed hang defined much more by piano, strings, and winds than Costello’s rock and roll pedigree. But it’s hardly a snoozer, either. Subtlety might reign, but there’s a swanky, sophisticated cool coursing through Look Now that punches it up in even its hushest moments

Elvis Costello  has always had a talent for writing songs that you feel with your whole body, and “Under Lime” might be his most orgasmic yet. Following up with the “Jimmie” we left “standing in the rain” on National Ransom, Costello delivers a peppy, poppy homage to an illicit backstage tryst between the older showman and the daffy young assistant on a low-budget “Mystery Guest” TV show. Costello’s vocals are satin-sinister, sweet as honey on one line and a dangerous purr in the next, and Pete Thomas’ clockwork drumming keeps everyone in check. But it’s Steve Nieve who steals the show with a ragtime piano that hits its frantic, fiery peak at the tail end of the last verse, and the song ends in a glorious shudder. I’m not ashamed to say I actually swooned when I heard him play it live this past November.

After canceling a slew of European tour dates, Elvis Costello is bouncing back from a “small but very aggressive cancerous malignancy” . Elvis Costello & The Imposters are Steve Nieve (keyboards), Davey Faragher (bass), Pete Thomas (drums) they recorded Look Now in Hollywood, New York City and Vancouver, British Columbia.

This LP marks Costello’s first release since 2013’s Wise Up Ghost with The Roots and 2008’s Momofuku with The Imposters.

“I knew if we could make an album with the scope of ‘Imperial Bedroom’ and some of the beauty and emotion of ‘Painted From Memory’, we would really have something”, Costello says of Look Now. The album is entirely written by Costello, save for “Don’t Look Now,” “Photographs Can Lie” and “He’s Given Me Things” which were co-written by Burt Bacharach. “Burnt Sugar Is So Bitter” was written with Carole King.

“Look Now’ is an outstanding 12-strong addition to his song catalogue. Elvis Costello’s 30th album –co-credited to the Imposters, basically the Attractions with a different bass player — is his strongest in years.

Elvis Costello is a conceptual band-leader (The Attractions, The Confederates, The Imposters etc), and apparently innately turned his short stories ,lacerating tales of romantic frustrations, political expediency, hapless social climbing and all the rest into any form he wanted to. His first half-a-dozen records are almost concept albums, with Costello moving through genres as though they were time zones. Confident of his instincts and virtuosity, he has continued in this vein for more than 40 years, happy to dip in and out of styles and collaborate at will with Burt Bacharach on 1998’s Painted From Memory and Allen Toussaint on 2006’s The River In Reverse.

He’s been quiet of late, not helped by a recent cancer scare, which was an unnecessary interruption to his almost relentless touring schedule. Next month sees the release of a brand-new album, Called Look Now (probably because you should), it’s his first record he’s made with The Imposters since 2008 and his first new album since the well-reviewed 2013 Roots collaboration, Wise Up Ghost.

The last time Elvis Costello put out an album, he was backed by The Roots on 2013’s largely underrated and flat-out spectacular Wise Up Ghost! It saw the songwriter opening up his repertoire to a collaboration with hip hop’s most famous live band. Now five years later, Costello returns to the form that made him one of the most well-respected names in music. In tow, are The Imposters, a band whom he most recently recorded 2008’s Momofuku with, as well as legendary songwriter/pianist Burt Bacharach, a longtime collaborator of Costello’s who helped thread multiple tracks on the album. “I had all of the orchestrations and vocal parts in my head or on the page before we played a note,” the ever-methodical Costello said in a press release. And if latest single “Suspect My Tears,” is any indication, Look Now (out on Concord Records) promises more of Costello’s timeless lyricism through and through.

Costello says that he decided to make the record while touring last summer with the band, largely playing songs from his Imperial Bedroom album, and having spent a weekend with Look Now it’s easy to see the connection. The songs here are dense but ornate, complex but forthright, and every one of the 12 songs has a melody that you won’t be able to slip. Costello has been criticised in the last decade or so for failing to address his audience and by trying to distance himself from his past. And whether you subscribe to that or not, this new record is good enough to appeal to any Costello fan, regardless of when they joined his train.>There are co-writes with Bacharach, while one song – “Burnt Sugar Is So Bitter”, written with Carole King – sounds like the best thing that Steely Dan have written since Katy Lied.

“Unwanted Number” from the forthcoming album Look Now

Elvis Costello  has released a new video for his ballad “Suspect My Tears,” off his forthcoming album Look Now, out October. 12yj on Concord Records.

The artistic new video features a tragic love story told via a black-and-white, animated storyboard, which introduces limited colors by its closing.

“Suspect My Tears” was recorded by Grammy-winning producer Sebastian Krys with The Imposters, who include Steve Nieve (keyboards), Davey Faragher (bass) and Pete Thomas (drums). The track is augmented by jazz-bassoonist Michael Rabinowitz, and vocalists Kitten Kuroi and Brianna Lee.

Look Now is the first album Costello has made with The Imposters since the 2008 release of Momofuku, and his first new album since his 2013 collaboration with The Roots, Wise Up Ghost.

Costello will kick off an extensive U.S. tour with The Imposters next month.