Ranking this one was tough. I had to balance the warm bath of nostalgia with the sobering effects of time, then sprinkle in a dash of ‘one amazing song lifting up a whole album.’ Given all that, fourth place feels about right.
Here’s a lovely track from Elvis Costello’s 2004 album The Delivery Man, which started as a concept album about a quartet of characters in the deep south but ended up as a collection of loosely connected rock songs and ballads.
Ivy was presumably one of the characters in that original narrative, and her presence is felt in the backing vocals of the wonderful Emmylou Harris, who shows up on a couple of tracks. Lucinda Williams sits in on the raucous ‘There’s a Story in Your Voice,’ delivering a wild and passionate performance.
Elvis Costello produced my second-favorite album of 1981, and just a few months earlier, he released my favorite.
Costello’s fifth album, Trust, is similar to Squeeze’s East Side Story in that it’s a New Wave record dabbling in a host of other genres. Squeeze lead singer Glenn Tilbrook even duets with Costello on the fun track ‘From a Whisper to a Scream.’
Backed by the Imposters and a nine-member string section, Costello once again sings from the perspective of a woman, this time the mistress of a wealthy man giving the kiss-off to her former lover.
Track 11, ‘Why Won’t Heaven Help Me?,’ could have fit right in on 1993’s pop album Punch the Clock, especially during its delightful chorus. But that delicious ear candy is blended with the stately classicism of Costello’s more recent work.
‘Suspect My Tears,’ the tenth track on Elvis Costello’s Look Now, is truly a wild ride. Ignore the lyrics and it sounds like a full-blown schmaltzy 70s love song. He wrote this one alone, but it could easily pass for one of his earlier Burt Bacharach collaborations.
Read the lyrics, though, and you’ll realize this is a bitter attack by a man who has grown tired of his lover’s crocodile tears and is threatening to shed some of his own. It’s the nastiest song on the album.
I don’t know if it’s a coincidence that it’s also my least favorite song on the album. Costello isn’t exactly known for his romantic side.
“Least favorite” sounds a little harsh, though every list has to have something at the bottom. It’s more accurate to say this is the song I’ve taken the longest to warm to.