The first time I saw Elvis Costello live was during his Armed Forces tour in 1978. He played for about 45 minutes before storming off the stage without a word.
Not wishing to get burned for my concert dollars again. I didn't go to his recent show at the Sports Arena. I was surprised when I heard he'd done a turn-around and played a full-length show and took the time to establish a rapport with the audience.
By the same token. it's either ironic or coincidental that Costello's new album is entitled Trust. Though he may have catered to his audience in his live shows, he remains uncompromising in the studio.
Costello's new album may rival his Armed Forces collection as his most satisfying statement to date. Backed by his crackerjack outfit, the Attractions, Costello runs the musical gamut from straight-ahead, pull-out-all-the-stops rock and roll all the way to a country and western ballad on this 14 song compilation.
The Englishman continues his fascination with honky-tonk music on this album with "(Put Your Ring On) A Different Finger." Costello had previously released an EP with country music giant George Jones. Though his voice may not make anyone forget Merle Haggard, he shows that he can write with the best of them in Nashville.
On the rest of the album. Costello sings with an intensity matched by few. His voice conveys such emotion that he doesn't just sing his songs, he lives them.
Elvis and band power their way through songs like "Clubland," "Luxembourg." and "From a Whisper to a Scream " On "Whisper to a Scream," probably the most exhilarating track on the record, Glen Tilbrook from Squeeze gives an assist on vocals. The Attractions are more than up to the challenges presented by Costello's music. Bruce Thomas' muscular bass and the precision drumming of Pete Thomas pulsate on "Lover's Walk," while keyboardist Steve Nieve weaves a hypnotic spell on "Strict Time "
Though Costello's delivery makes it hard to understand what he's saying sometimes. it's worth the effort to listen because he is one of the most intriguing lyricists around. Which leads me to my only complaint about the album, the exclusion of a lyric sheet. But pronunciation is not everything, as Mick Jagger and the Pretender's Chrissie Hynde will attest.
Trust has been hailed by some critics as one of the best release of the new year. Who knows? Maybe Trust will get Costello some Respect.