Bootleg: King Of Americana

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Disc 1 and 2.


Disc 1 (King Of Acoustic):
01. The Big Light
02. Our Little Angel
03. Shoes Without Heels
04. Jack Of All Parades
05. Brilliant Mistake
06. Lovable
07. Glitter Gulch / Little Palaces - unlisted
08. My Youngest Son Came Home Today
09. End Of The Rainbow
10. Deportee - listed as "Departee" on the artwork and "Depertee" on the disc
11. She Moved Through The Fair
12. Feel Like Going Home
13. Running Out Of Fools
14. Having It All

Disc 2 (King Of Electric):
01. Suit Of Lights
02. Brilliant Mistake
03. Jack Of All Parades
04. Blue Chair
05. Brilliant Mistake
06. Baby's Got A Brand New Hairdo
07. Lovable
08. Our Little Angel - listed as "Out Little Angel"
09. Poisoned Rose
10. The Big Light
11. American Without Tears - listed as "America Without Tears"
12. Indoor Fireworks
13. I Hope You're Happy Now
14. Eisenhower Blues
15. Glitter Gulch
16. King Of Confidence
17. Shoes Without Heels
18. I'll Wear It Proudly
19. Sleep Of The Just

Release Information

  • Date: 2001
  • Media: 2xCD
  • Catalogue number (comments): Hiwatt Catalog# KOA-1/2 (gold CDs)


As you can see, the acoustic demos disc replicated what was previously circulated (notably on Oh Shit! The Elvis Costello Demos... And Other Rarities), but with some resequencing. It should also be noted that it is SLIGHTLY more complete, as songs like "Jack Of All Parades" include the count in and opening chords, but I don't notice any real difference in the sound quality between this set and Oh Shit. I do feel the resequencing was smartly done -- everything from track 7 and onwards flows remarkably well. As you can see, it doesn't include "Suffering Face" or "I Hope You're Happy Now," which I assume were amended to the set by a thoughtful compiler and not part of the leaked demo reel. This, of course, suggests the possibility of still unheard King Of America demos that may very well show up on the upcoming Rhino reissues... The performances here really warrant comment -- this is simply Elvis at his BEST and his most passionate. It almost feels like him sitting in your living room playing his new songs for you!!, it's extremely intimate, and the covers that are included I think provide a greater sense of the kind of music that actually inspired King Of America than "Don't Let Me Be Misunderstood" or "Eisenhower Blues." I hope Rhino makes copious use of this material when preparing their reissue.

The second disc, comprised of outtakes and alternate/rough mixes, does include material not previously included on the Oh Shit set. The material here is also more complete in some instances (or better edited), and there aren't any of the abrupt endings ("Sleep Of The Just" fades in the coda, instead of the cold stop, for example) that occasionally showed up before. Although there are some real gems (I *love* that I Hope You're Happy Now, played at a cowboy pace, and the slow "Brilliant Mistake," more elaborate "Eisenhower Blues" and the pre-overdub "Blue Chair" are all great fun), in many cases the differences between the official release and corresponding take here are EXTREMELY subtle -- some of which I can't even immediately discern any difference. This is made even more difficult by the fact that it sounds to by ears like this set is culled from a dub of a dub of a dub of the leaked reel (the sound quality is actually pretty good, but there is some generation loss that seems to make the mix noticably more murky than the official LP, though King Of Americana *may* have accessed a higher generation source tape than the one that was sourced on Oh Shit) and thus sometimes it's hard to say if some of the tracks here sounds different simply some of the instrumental detail has gone "mushy"). Perhaps after the set makes the rounds we can collaborate on the list to identify exactly how each song is different from the released product, but until then, don't expect night and day from what you're already familiar with in much of this material.

The packaging is fairly attractive, but not as sharp as Hiwatt's previous Orpheum Theatre release, and not as deluxe as material this important may warrant. Nonetheless, the liner notes, while included the occasionally factual slip (the author claims, for example, that the Attractions backed EC on "Sleep Of The Just"), seem to be written by a fairly knowledgeable fan, thought he seems to dwell on a critical and fan backlash to the released album that I never knew existed, nor does he mention how highly it had come to be regarded by EC fans in the years that followed. I think this set is a very very useful companion to the official LP, and the demo disc alone makes it an essential purchase (or trade!). - teej

Liner notes

In 1985 Elvis Costello took a sabbatical from the constant touring and recording with the Attractions, except for a one off performance at the Miners Benefit in April.

However, for the workaholic Elvis a sabbatical still resulted in playing a dozen shows in London, Australia and Japan either solo or with T-Bone Burnett as The Coward Brothers; playing, supporting and producing the Pogues; and even two appearances on BBC television, one singing "an old northern folk song" at Live Aid and the other singing "Georgia On My Mind" as a duet with his dad and backed by the Joe Loss Orchestra.

This lack of activity resulted in the general consensus of the music press and fans that Elvis was a washed-up, drunken, burnt out songwriter whose best years were behind him.

This perception was reinforced when "Don't Let Me Be Misunderstood" the lead-off single from King Of America was issued in Spring `86 featuring a vocal performance that was raspy and weary and depicted a tired, shabby and bearded Elvis in a straw hat (a photo taken from a 1984 summer tour) on the cover.

In 1985 King Of America was also recorded, which was to feature songs premiered at two London shows in March and April. The new album was initially going to be part solo and part with the Attractions. In the spring of that year at Sunset Sound studio, LA, Elvis recorded "ragged" demos of the majority of the songs written for the album, which makes up the bulk of Disc 1 of this set.

Over a three month period the album was recorded at Hollywood Oceanway Studio with the cream of American session musicians before the Attractions arrived in America. For these sessions, T-Bone Burnett had brought together three-quarters of the original Elvis' TCB band: James Burton - guitar, Jerry Scheff - bass and Ron Tutt - drums, and also Ray Brown who played string bass with all the jazz elite and Earl Palmer who had played drums with Little Richard. Other musicians that were to line up behind Elvis included Tom Canning - piano, Mitchell Froom - keyboards, T-Bone Wolk - electric guitar, Mickey Curry & Jim Keltner - drums and percussion. Elvis was surprised that these musicians were in the same studio and initially in awe of such illustrious company.

The use of these different musicians also effect the album sound which displayed Elvis' eclectic musical tastes, from traditional Irish folk music to country to swing and through to Cajun.

The source for this release is a previously uncirculated recording, which allows us to hear the development of these songs from Elvis' acoustic guitar accompanied demos through to alternative band versions of the officially released songs.

In addition to the original demos, Disc 1 also features a selection of covers with piano accompaniment. Eric Bogle's "My Youngest Son" (never officially released); Richard Thompson's "End Of The Rainbow" (finally released as in a fully developed arrangement on the Anti-Heroin Project album); Rogers & Ahlert's "Running Out Of Fools" (released on Kojak Variety with the Confederates); and the traditional song "She Moved Through The Fair" (to be recorded with the Brodsky Quartet almost a decade later). We are also treated to a re-working of "The Deportees Club" from Goodbye Cruel World and probably the original demo of "Having It All" which was written for Patsy Kensit to perform in the ill-fated film Absolute Beginners. Another unreleased song featured on Disc 1 is "I Feel Like Going Home." It's unclear whether this is an original or a cover!

The alternative band version that makes up the bulk of Disc 2 feature subtle differences to the officially released songs: on "Lovable" has no harmony vocals, on "Our Little Angel" Elvis smiles singing the line "And the lonely hearts club clientele..."; "The Big Light" has more of Ron Tutt's brush effects; and "Eisenhower Blues" is performed in a less throw away arrangement. On the official release the Attractions only backed Elvis on one song - "Sleep Of The Just" - even though it was intended they would record "Brilliant Mistake." It's unclear whether either of the two alternative takes featured Attractions. If they are not in there in person they are in there in spirit.

On release of the album in the spring of '86 the response from the music press and fans was lukewarm; with much barbed comments directed at the cover photo, the reverting to his family name, the use of American session musicians and on Disc 2 were recorded with the substituting The Costello Show for EC & A. Elvis enthusiastically promoted the album with numerous interviews in the mainstream and music press. In late I986 and early 1987, Elvis, The Attractions and Confederates undertook a tour, performing multi-night stands in major cities across America and Britain, with a few shows in Europe and Japan to promote King Of America and Blood And Chocolate that was released in the fall of `86.

With hindsight, King Of America was the transition between Elvis and The Attractions 1977 to 1984 and the future.


  • Excellent studio demos, occasional glitches.

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