One of rock and roll's most brilliant artists has made a new album, and the question is: should we be happy about it? I'm talking about Get Happy, the newest by Elvis Costello. Back to the question: should we be happy? Yes, Elvis gives us 20 reasons why, 20 new songs, 20 new worlds to experience, and all on one long playing album.
The album was recently recorded in Holland by one of the great progressive producers, Nick Lowe. Nick had a definite influence on the album, and the new sound for Elvis many times resembles the Lowe sound. I remember back in '77 getting excited over the raw 60's sound we got from My Aim Is True (the first Costello L.P.). The songs like "Mystery Dance," "Watching the Detectives," and "Miracle Man" were so powerful and energetic. This Year's Model contained the same power punch with "The Beat" and "Pump it Up," but the raw sound was polished. Then came Armed Forces (Elvis's third). It was orchestrated, synthesized, re-done, and all mixed nicely into the modern sound. But it still contained the power and energy, with Elvis screaming to be heard. The Elvis sound has been polished even more and now he gives us Get Happy.
Get Happy is made up of 20 short songs, sometimes, almost too short. The songs range around the two to two and one half minute mark. lust when you think there will be an instrumental break the song ends. The songs are soft and sweet for the majority. But best of all, Elvis is back to the 60's sound, this time soul and blues instead of rock and roll. The songs are mostly about love and passion (natural for soul), but don't try to understand the lyrics, you never will. Elvis does a good job of hiding them in rhyming word games. I get the feeling that he doesn't want us to listen to the lyrics but instead he wants us to notice his voice; it's never sounded better. In the slower songs like "Opportunity," "Secondary Modern," and "Temptation," Elvis gives you the feeling that he is personally involved in each song. If you listen closely, you will realize how pretty Elvis can sing. I enjoy Elvis in a soulful mood but I still miss the goon squads and the pump it ups. So I tend to prefer "The Imposter," 'Beaten to the Punch," "High Fidelity," and a real new wave tune, "Black and White World." These songs all contain a slightly subdued trace of the early Elvis power numbers. Some other things on the album are a few numbers, a country tune, "Motel Matches," some nice mood pieces, and a pleasant acoustical song, "New Amsterdam."
Overall, Get Happy is excellently done. Elvis's vocals are very strong, the rhythm section is more powerful than ever, the organ is set free to do as it pleases, and the guitars float in and out nicely. Get Happy doesn't attack the listener like Elvis records of the past. Instead it relaxes you with a wonderful soul sound, and some great soul vocals. I agree with Elvis, Get Happy will simply get you to do just that.