Fort Lauderdale Sun-Sentinel, March 2, 1986

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King of America

The Costello Show (Featuring Elvis Costello)

Jim Presnell

Elvis Costello, arguably the songwriting genius of our time, has done it again. His new album is all his influences — country, blues, R&B, pop, rock — rolled into one masterful package of 15 songs (two covers and 13 originals).

The Attractions are only featured on one cut, as Big El's studio band includes pros such as Jerry Scheff, Mitchell Froom, T-Bone Wolk, Jim Keltner and guests such as Los Lobos' David Hidalgo (harmony vocal on "Lovable").

(The Attractions, according to Costello's publicist, are in the studio working with the master on his new "rock" effort, which will be released this year as well. Then Costello plans to tour.)

For now, we are given something that approximates the sound of Elvis' country effort, Almost Blue — except with original songs. The influences and tone of the album are strictly Englishman-in-America, a kind of stranger-in-a-strange-land attitude. The music is some of the most beautiful Costello has written. The lyrics are masterfully witty, literate, and they cut like a double-edged sword fresh from the whetstone.

"He thought he was the King of America / Where they pour Coca-Cola just like vintage wine," Costello sings in the dynamite opening cut, "Brilliant Mistake." He meets a woman who says she works for ABC News and sings, "It was as much of the alphabet as she knew how to use."

Elvis calls America, "...a boulevard of broken dreams / A trick they do with mirrors and with chemicals." Two English women who have moved to America captivate him as dancing girls in a New Orleans bar (Costello has a residence there). The former war brides have become "American Without Tears," and say, "...we don't speak any English."

One cover is a classic that Costello seamlessly combines with his own material. "Don't Let Me Be Misunderstood" (once a hit for the Animals) has never been done with more passion or angst; Costello almost weeps the vocal. Costello, who credits himself for the acoustic guitar he plays through most of the album under the name Little Hands of Concrete, has never seemed so humble; his music has never been more powerful.


Tags: King Of AmericaThe AttractionsJerry ScheffMitchell FroomT-Bone WolkJim KeltnerLos LobosDavid HidalgoLovableAlmost BlueBrilliant MistakeAmerican Without TearsDon't Let Me Be MisunderstoodLittle Hands Of Concrete

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Fort Lauderdale Sun-Sentinel, March 2, 1986


Jim Presnell reviews King Of America.

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1986-03-02 Fort Lauderdale Sun-Sentinel page 3G clipping 01.jpg
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1986-03-02 Fort Lauderdale Sun-Sentinel page 3G.jpg

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