Buyer's Guide to Elvis Costello
If you put aside the multiple side projects and guest appearances, Elvis Costello has averaged an album a year since his maiden release, My Aim Is True, in 1977. With such a dense back catalogue, a departure point can be hard to find for the rookie. Here are a few suggestions.
This Year's Model (1978): The most aggressive and tuneful of his early rejection-and-anger albums. New wave doesn't sound dated here.
Get Happy!! (1980): London meets Memphis, as Elvis discovers Stax soul and inverts it with a British garage sound. The 20-song album also includes some of his strongest melodies.
Trust (1981): Backing band the Attractions never sounded as committed as they did on this brilliant collection of anguished rockers and cynical ballads.
Imperial Bedroom (1982): The recording studio was used to full advantage as Costello hit what some critics consider his peak. If he has a Sgt. Pepper's, this is it.
Blood & Chocolate (1986): Cut mostly live in the studio, many tracks were either first takes or took no more than three or four attempts. Refreshingly raw.
All This Useless Beauty (1996): His strongest batch of songs in a decade. Costello & Nieve, a superb 5-EP box of live performances with longtime keyboard player Steve Nieve, was released the same year.
Painted from Memory (with Burt Bacharach) (1998): Two masters of songcraft make this stunning collection of new tracks sound like it came effortlessly. Repeated listenings just deepen the pleasure.