Mar 172021
 

Full Albums features covers of every track off a classic album. Got an idea for a future pick? Leave a note in the comments!

armed forces covers

Last year we polled our loyal band of Patreon-izers as to which Elvis Costello album they would like to read a Full Albums post about. The winner was This Year’s Model, and we duly dealt with it here. The runner-up, Armed Forces, has recently had its umpteenth revamp and re-release, making it entirely apt for it to addressed in turn.

1979’s Armed Forces was Costello’s third record all told, his second album with the Attractions, and the first actually bearing the Attractions’ name. It sold well, reaching #2 in the UK album charts and #10 in the US charts, notching platinum sales altogether in the former, gold in the latter. And, as stated, there have been a number of re-packages, notably in 1993 and 2002. 1993 added a few extra tracks, whilst 2002 threw in a whole extra disc, the selections on each chosen by Costello. This year’s release, Complete Armed Forces, goes a step further and is a mammoth box set (vinyl, naturally) with nine records.

But finding a decent set of covers proved elusive. Only now, thanks to a link being made available to one long-lost recording and to the commissioning of a totally new rendition of another, are we able to finally complete the circle.
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Mar 032021
 

That’s A Cover? explores cover songs that you may have thought were originals.

I Can't Stand Up For Falling Down

At the dawn of the ’80s, Elvis Costello was the guy you’d least expect to release a cover version as a single. He was one of the most successful songwriters of the “New Wave,” fresh from a run of six self-penned top-30 hits in the UK (five with the Attractions) that stretched from “Watching The Detectives” in 1977 to “Accidents Will Happen” in 1979. He was at the top of his game as a composer and lyricist, who drew from a seemingly infinite pool of anger, cynicism, and bitterness. He might easily be supposed, therefore, to have written “I Can’t Stand Up For Falling Down,” a UK #4 for him in March 1980. Two reasons: (1) because the original was so little known, and (2) because he injected it with his own compelling brand of nerdy desperation and punk-rock intensity.

Costello, in fact, reinterpreted a Sam & Dave B-side as the sixth consecutive single with his breathtaking backing band, the Attractions. Yet few knew he’d plucked the song from the illustrious catalog of Stax Records in Memphis, in an effort to incorporate some deep Southern soul into his punk-fueled sound. Few knew he’d adopted it to stimulate his first major shift into a new genre as a songwriter and arranger. Few, indeed, knew he’d covered the song to serve as the advance single for an album, Get Happy!!, that was packed with an incredible 18 Costello-penned tracks embodying ’60s R&B/soul and ska, an act which proved to be more than a little bit political.
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Nov 112020
 

Full Albums features covers of every track off a classic album. Got an idea for a future pick? Leave a note in the comments!

This Year's Model covers

 

Before there was Elvis Costello, there was Day Costello. Well, actually, Day Costello was the name Ross MacManus (Declan Patrick MacManus’s father) used for a recording of a cover of Paul McCartney’s “The Long and Winding Road” in 1970. The song was a number one hit in Australia, and the name Costello actually belonged to Elvis’ great-grandmother. Six years later, young Declan signed to Stiff Records. He was going by D.P. Costello until his manager Jake Riviera rechristened him Elvis.

Elvis Costello unleashed an instant power pop classic when he tossed 1978’s This Year’s Model into the mix. It earned best album of the year in Robert Christgau’s Pazz & Jop poll in The Village Voice, and has topped many a best album list since. It was Costello’s second album, but his first with The Attractions. His sharp wit and punk rock ethos manifest themselves in each song, shedding some light on why this nerdy Buddy Holly-esque looking guy runs around calling himself Elvis and gets away with it. His new band is a little more rocking than the backing band on his debut album, My Aim Is True (a country band called Clover), and Steve Nieve’s organ is a driving force that cements a lifelong partnership between the two men.

Elvis Costello has gone on to release over 30 albums (eight with The Attractions), win a few Grammys, get inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, and pen a few songs for films (including partnering with Burt Bacharach and T-Bone Burnett on two of them). He’s collaborated with the likes of Paul McCartney, Daryl Hall, Annie Lennox, Billie Joe Armstrong, Fiona Apple, Bruce Springsteen, and many more, and he’s had a very successful career. But his 1978 masterpiece tends to resonate most with people. It stands the test of time, and its punk rock/power-pop mix of attitude and hooks with clever wordplay, and the occasional laidback number, lend it a wide scope influencing artists across genres.
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Oct 202020
 

My Darling ClementineForgive the sense of deja vu. We have indeed been here before, at different stages of fruition; this being the 3rd and final chapter of Country Darkness, hitherto a work in progress.

For those not up to speed, here we have the UK’s answer to George’n’Tammy, the married country torch singers Michael Weston King and Lou Dalgleish. Otherwise known as my Darling Clementine, they’re both big fans of Elvis Costello, and they have been spending their 2020 putting together a collection of Costello covers. To add icing to that cake, they’ve done this in conjunction with no less than Steve Nieve, right hand man and keyboard pilot for Costello since near the beginning. Released in three helpings (earlier volumes reviewed here and here), this final set is again four songs. Over the course of the year, the question has changed from whether it will be worth hearing (’twas ever thus) to whether they can keep up the momentum.

My answer: a muted yes.
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Oct 052020
 
best tribute albums

Over our time tracking cover songs (13 years this month!), we’ve written about hundreds of new tribute albums, across reviews, news stories, and, when they’re good enough, our best-of-the-year lists. We also have looked back on plenty of great tribute albums from the past in our Cover Classics series. But we’ve never pulled it all together – until now. Continue reading »

Jun 022020
 

My Darling Clementinejenn champion the blue albumGiven we are again treading the tearstained paths of country music, as soon as bawling follows brawling, and sinking follows drinking, one other thing in the world to rely on is the expectation honed by entitling anything as “Volume 1.” Not that it always delivers or guarantees a followup, but when husband and wife duo, My Darling Clementine, dropped Country Darkness, Vol. 1 (reviewed here), my hopes for a volume 2 went high and held there. Thankfully, the wait for said volume has not been a long one.

Country Darkness, Volume 2 has arrived. Once more it is an EP of songs of Elvis Costello, tackled by Michael Weston King and Lou Dalgleish. The duo maintain their mantle as a latter-day George Jones and Tammy Wynette, tho’ with fewer guns and lawnmowers and (hopefully) less naggin’ and nippin’. And once more it is the rippling fingers of guest Steve Nieve that does the heavy lifting beneath their vocal interplay, again proving himself a less frantic and more sensitive player than when with his usual employer. An EP, like its predecessor, with another four songs; I wonder how many more are in the box? (The press release suggests one more, 12 songs having been chosen overall.) Certainly there is no shortage of Costello songs that fall into this genre, and despite the relative annoyance of this gradual drip feeding, I am sure it makes for good accounting for the duo and their record company. Plus, I can’t wait for the eventual compilation, duplication be damned.

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