Liverpool's Number One Project brings Amsterdam closer to Elvis Costello

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Liverpool's Number One Project brings Amsterdam closer to Elvis Costello

by Jade Wright

The Number One Project aims to bring together some of Liverpool's finest musicians. But one collaboration has managed to draw together artists slightly further than others - it is a trans-Atlantic musical piece of teamwork stretching more than 3,000 miles.

Amsterdam's singer Ian Prowse explains: "When we heard about the project we wanted to do something, but we couldn't work out what or how to do it.

"Then Ian (McNabb, the project's A&R director) suggested maybe we could do a collaboration with Elvis Costello. Elvis wanted to do something, but was on tour with Bob Dylan and couldn't come to Liverpool, so it made sense to do a track together."

Together - well, as together as you can be across an ocean - they reworked The Searchers hit Don't Throw Your Love Away, which reached No. 1 in 1964.

The song is part of the Number One Project, celebrating Liverpool's world-beating 56 number one singles with a charity album, concert and single to mark the city's status as European Capital of Culture.

"The song wouldn't have been my first choice," admits Ian, as we chat in the living room of his city centre flat.

"The original was just too chirpy. Some parts of the song were just too sweet. "So Johnny (Barlow, Amsterdam's guitarist and Ian's cousin) suggested we rework it with an open D tuning, which brought out the melancholy.

"I got straight on to Elvis. I called him - he was at home in New York surrounded by nappies. I was chatting to him as he was changing his twins' nappies. Every now and again the phone would go dead, then I'd hear 'Are you there?' and he'd be back. "He was really enthusiastic about Johnny's plan.

So we recorded the track over here, and sent it over for him to do his vocals in his own studio. All we could do then was wait.

"When it came back it sounded amazing. He's got that incredible voice, and it works really well with the song Then I put my vocals on and it was finished. "It's a nice, plaintive, almost ballad-style, and a lot of that is down to the tuning. It sounds much weightier. We did quite fundamentally change it. I have to give all credit to Johnny, it's something that I would never have thought of."

To explain the difference, he picks up one of the three guitars that sit in pride of place and plays the different tunings, and then the final recorded version. It is indeed different, and perfectly offset by the combination of Elvis' raspy and Ian's smooth vocals. It isn't the first time they have worked together.

"When Elvis performed on Jonathan Ross' show he got us on as his backing band," says Ian. "We've opened up world tours for him, in Amsterdam of all places, then we did the Summer Pops show with him."

Their collaborations began in 2001 with another Liverpool-themed album. "We did Mersey Boys and Liverpool Girls for EMI," he says, pointing to the framed album poster above the fireplace. "They had a launch party for it and he came over and said that he liked our track.

"His music is my era. 1977 is year zero for me - everything I like is from 1977 onwards - Elvis Costello, The Jam, Bruce Springsteen. It's in direct opposition to most Liverpool bands. They're stuck in the 60s, I'm stuck in the 70s.

"So when he said he liked our work I was bowled over. He's been really good to us. "If you're going to do a duet, it might as well be with one of the greatest artists in the world. "He's done some amazing collaborations.

"Paul McCartney asked him to be his John Lennon. They collaborated on Flowers In The Dirt. He's done duets with Burt Bacharach. He's worked with everyone. So to do this duet was great."

Would you have collaborated with anyone else on the album? He sips his tea and ponders for a moment. "Yes, I think we would," he concludes. "Maybe some more than others. I like a lot of the tracks, but I'm not sure how our style would sit with them all.

"My favourite is probably The Sums version of Paperback Writer, it's sensational." Amsterdam will perform Don't Throw Your Love Away at the Number One Project concert at the ECHO Arena on January 19.

"Elvis can't make it, he's still touring, so I'll do both vocals," says Ian. "Plus each act sings a song of their own, so we'll be doing Does This Train Stop on Merseyside.

"It's going to be amazing to sing it in front of 10,000 people in the new ECHO Arena in the Capital of Culture year. I can't wait."

Amsterdam's second album, Arm in Arm, will be released in March.

The Number One Project concert takes place at the ECHO Arena on January 19. For tickets, call 0844 8000 400.

The single, Atomic Kitten's Anyone Who Had a Heart, will be released on January 28; the album will be out on February 4.

It is hoped the project will raise at least £1m for Merseyside charities, including The ECHO Sunrise Appeal.

For more information: http://www.thenumberoneproject.org and http://www.amsterdam-music.co.uk