Monday, February 21, 2011

king of america

Declan Patrick Aloysious MacManus had his '86 comeback by channelling his inner Elvis and bringing musicians from Presley's TCB band into the Costello Show for this journey into Americana. In the wake of the failure of his marriage and the commercial and artistic failure of 'Goodbye Cruel World', Costello needed a change. He enlisted the help of T-Bone Burnett and Mitchell Froom to bring in session musicians that would help him strip down his sound. The result is an album of understated acoustic grace that showcases his incomparable voice in a number of different musical genres from rockabilly to country to rhythm and blues to folk to blues. 'King Of America' has genuine depth and is one of his most consistant records. For the first time, he used his real name; but the record company wanted him to stick with his stage name. In the liner notes Costello refers to himself as "Little Hands of Concrete" due to his propensity for breaking strings.

Most of the songs were written largely during an acoustic tour with T Bone Burnett during which the duo took on the moniker of The Coward Brothers.  Costello says:   "By the time we entered Hollywood's Ocean Way Studios, we had booked several line-ups to tackle the songs. The first consisted of Ron Tutt on drums, Jerry Scheff on bass, and James Burton on guitar. This trio had been a major part of Elvis Presley's "T.C.B." band, although I was actually more familiar with Ron and James' recordings with Gram Parsons. It turned out that Jerry, whose musical background included the Navy and modern jazz, had also featured on records ranging from The 5th Dimension's "Up, Up, And Away" to The Doors' "L.A. Woman".  James Burton is one of the few guitar players who is almost always called "legendary". This is because he is amazing, and his credits stretch from Dale Hawkins' "Suzie Q", through his years with Ricky Nelson and Elvis Presley to a fantastic range of session and stage appearances, Jerry Lee Lewis, Emmylou Harris, and Randy Newman being only three of my favourites from the hundreds of artists he has played with.  These sessions were cut as "live" as possible. T-Bone and engineer Larry Hirsch had miked me so that my vocal and guitar performance were central to the sound picture."

The first single was a cover of the Animal's 'Don't Let Me Be Misunderstood'. It was a top forty hit in the US and the UK. It is one of the few songs in which you hear Costello sing the words "I love you."

"Brilliant Mistake"

"I wish that I could push a button
And talk in the past and not the present tense
And watch this hurtin' feeling disappear
Like it was common sense
It was a fine idea at the time
Now it's a brilliant mistake"

'Lovable' was co-written with future wife Cait O'Riordan and was released as a single in the US.

"You're so sweet, you're so honest
You say, “I'll be true to you boy”
But I won't promise
Then you say you love me
Then you show me

As you lie there so lifelike below me"

"Our Little Angel"

"You'll come in a sweetheart and you'll go out a stranger
Well you try to love her but she's so contrary
Like a chainsaw running through a dictionary
So get your mind off the sweet behind of our little angel"

"Indoor fireworks
Can still burn your fingers
Indoor fireworks
We swore we were safe as houses
They're not so spectacular
They don't burn up in the sky
But they can dazzle or delight
Or bring a tear
When the smoke gets in your eyes"

"You're the twinkle in your daddy's eye,
A name you spray and scribble,
You made the girls all turn their heads,
And in turn they made you miserable.
To be the heir apparent, to the kingdom of the invisible.
So you knock the kids about a bit, because they've got your name,
And you knock the kids about a bit, until they feel the same.
And they feel like knocking down the little palaces."

"At a dock in Southampton full of tearful goodbyes
Newsreel commentators said "Cheerio, G.I. brides"
Soon they'll be finding the cold facts and lies
New words for suspenders and young girls backsides
Now I'm in America and running from you
Like my grandfather before me walked the streets of New York
And I think of all the women I pretend mean more than you
When I open my mouth and I can't seem to talk
Now it seems we've been crying for years and for years
Now I don't speak any English just American without tears
Just American without tears"

"The poisoned rose
On a Valentine card
That you take straight to the heart
That you call my junkyard
But if all I can do
is save pieces of you
The piece of your mind
The piece of your heart
Didn't tear me apart
Like the poisoned rose
I received from you"

"I'll Wear it Proudly / Loveable" live

'King of America' full album playlist:

All tracks written by Declan MacManus except as noted

Side one
"Brilliant Mistake" — 3:45
"Lovable" (MacManus, Cait O'Riordan) — 2:53
"Our Little Angel" — 4:06
"Don't Let Me Be Misunderstood" (Bennie Benjamin, Sol Marcus, Gloria Caldwell) — 3:22
"Glitter Gulch" — 3:17
"Indoor Fireworks" — 4:10
"Little Palaces" — 3:49
"I'll Wear It Proudly" — 4:25
Side two
"American Without Tears" — 4:34
"Eisenhower Blues" (J. B. Lenoir) — 3:46
"Poisoned Rose" — 4:07
"The Big Light" — 2:33
"Jack of All Parades" — 5:18
"Suit of Lights" — 4:06
"Sleep of The Just" — 3:51

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