Imperial Bedroom, as you’ve likely guessed, is the second of the three albums I consider Elvis Costello’s masterpieces. And if I had to single out just one of his albums as his best, this would be the one.
It occurred to me recently that Elvis Costello isn’t really an album artist. By which I mean that he doesn’t often release complete albums that succeed start to finish. I can usually count a few duds among the gems, and he has a habit of overstaying his welcome and releasing 15 songs when 12 might have been more effective.
Those Elvis Costello fans confused and disappointed by his foray into country music with 1981’s Almost Blue didn’t have to wait long for his return to the sort of musical experimentation he started with Trust.
In 1982, he released Imperial Bedroom, his most ambitious and intricate album yet. Produced by Geoff Emerick, who served as the engineer on several Beatles classics, this record was Costello’s Sgt. Pepper’s — packed to the brim with musical flourishes, including a full orchestra on some tracks.
So now we come to Imperial Bedroom, the second album in my Costello Holy Trinity and probably my favorite of his records. To paraphrase Ed Wood in Tim Burton’s film: “This is the one they’ll remember him for!”
To be fair, Costello will be remembered for far more than Imperial Bedroom, not least the fact that he can put out an Imperial Bedroom as well as a country album, a classical album and a Burt Bacharach album. But this is certainly a highlight in his discography.