Top Artists – Elvis Costello

Elvis Costello Get Happy – What to Listen For

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  • A superb sounding vintage UK copy with Double Plus (A++) sound from start to finish 
  • Big, lively and dynamic, with plenty of bass (Elvis’s trademark sound) and New Wave energy
  • This release, coming right before the brilliant Trust, contains Elvis classics like I Can’t Stand Up (for Falling Down) & Motel Matches
  • The AMG Five Star rating “…a 20-song blue-eyed soul tour-de-force…” and killer recording quality make this a Must Own for Elvis fans

Two excellent sides for this rip-roarin’, twenty song, five star rated Elvis Costello extravaganza!

This is the record that came right after Armed Forces, which is a huge favorite around these parts, and the venerable All Music Guide gives both albums five big stars. I’m not sure I’d go quite that far, but it’s certainly full of good material. Out of the twenty songs on here, exactly one clocks in at over three minutes.

What to Listen For (WTLF)

There’s not a lot of top end on this recording. The mistake the American mastering engineers made when Columbia released their version was to brighten up the sound, which does nothing but make it aggressive and transistory. This is the way Get Happy is supposed to sound and trying to change it only makes it worse. (more…)

Elvis Costello – My Aim Is True – More 180g Trash from Rhino

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Sonic Grade: D

I’m embarrassed to say we used to like the Rhino Heavy Vinyl version, and in our defense let me tell you why: it was (for the most part) tonally correct, fairly low distortion, and had tight punchy bass.

Boy, was we wrong. Now it sounds positively CRUDE and UNPLEASANT next to the real thing — if by “the real thing” you mean an honest to goodness Hot Stamper copy. The average copy of this record is aggressive and unpleasant. The British pressings are mud. You either have to work very hard to find a good one (which means buying, cleaning and playing lots and lots of them), or you have to luck into a good one by accident.

 

This Year’s Model Is Rockin’ Like No Other (1978)

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  • With a Triple Plus (A+++) shootout winning side two and a superb Double Plus (A++) side one, this copy will be very hard to beat – quiet vinyl too
  • This Green Label Radar Records UK pressing has the kind of Tubey Magical Midrange that modern records cannot even BEGIN to reproduce
  • The bass is right – the moment-to-moment rhythmic changes in the songs are clear and the band swings the way it’s supposed to
  • 5 stars: “The most remarkable thing about the album is the sound — Costello and the Attractions never rocked this hard, or this vengefully, ever again.”

As we noted above, this original British pressing has the kind of Tubey Magical Midrange that modern records cannot even BEGIN to reproduce. Folks, that sound is gone and it sure isn’t showing signs of coming back. If you love hearing INTO a recording, actually being able to “see” the performers, and feeling as if you are sitting in the studio with the band, this is the record for you. It’s what vintage all analog recordings are known for — this sound. (more…)

Elvis Costello – King of America (1986)

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  • Elvis’s brilliant 1986 release finally comes to the site with two Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) sides
  • Both sides are incredibly clean, clear and lively with a huge bottom end and lots of space around all of the instruments
  • Nina Simone’s “Don’t Let Me Be Misunderstood” is only one highlight among many – these are some of his best songs 
  • AMG raves: “Stripping away much of the excess that cluttered Punch the Clock and Goodbye Cruel World, Elvis Costello returned to his folk-rock and pub rock roots with King of America, creating one of his most affecting and personal records … one of his masterpieces.”

Even though the album was recorded right here in the states, the domestic copies are clearly made from dubs, sounding quite a bit more opaque, vague, closed-in, flat and dry than most of the British pressings we played. Like most Costello albums on domestic vinyl, they should be avoided. (more…)

Elvis Costello – Imperial Bedroom

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  • With Triple Plus (A+++) sound or something close to it on both sides this is as good a copy as we have ever offered
  • Geoff Emerick engineered, creating a unique sound – a sound which only works if you have the right pressing
  • This dense, darkly serious album contains some of the best songs EC ever wrote – the last of his True Classics
  • Allmusic 5 Stars: “Essentially, the songs on Imperial Bedroom are an extension of Costello’s jazz and pop infatuations on Trust. Costello’s music is complex and intricate, yet it flows so smoothly, it’s easy to miss the bitter, brutal lyrics.”

Six of Elvis’s first seven albums received a Five Star rating from Allmusic, the exception being Almost Blue, and we generally would agree with that assessment (although Get Happy should probably get Four Stars also, not Five). 

Which is to say that Elvis Costello is a brilliant artist whose albums work as albums, a fact that is in danger of being lost in a world of single song downloads and greatest hits packages. We record-playing audiophiles are inclined to start at the beginning of a side and let if flow through to the end, and that is clearly the best way to appreciate and enjoy the work of this very gifted man.

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British Guy, British Pressing… Right?

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Nope. It’s just another Record Myth.

The British pressings are simply not competitive with the best domestics. No import, from any country, can touch a good Columbia pressing from the states. The most common stampers for the Columbia pressings have never sounded very good to these ears, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t some killer copies with different stampers sitting in the bins wearing the generic ’70s Red Columbia label. We’ve heard them. Wish we could find more of them but they are rare and only getting rarer.
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Elvis Costello Arrayed His Armed Forces and Produced His Single Best Sounding Album

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We consider Armed Forces to be one of the best sounding rock records ever made, and a copy like this White Hot Shootout Winner is proof enough to back up our claim. The best copies are extremely transparent and silky sounding, but with unbelievably punchy, rock-solid bass and drums.

The sound of the rhythm section ranks with the best we’ve ever heard. Beyond that, the musical chops of this band at this time rank with the best in the history of rock. Steve, Bruce and Pete rarely get the credit they deserve for being one of the tightest, liveliest backing bands ever to walk into a studio or on to a stage.

The song Oliver’s Army on the first side is a perfect example of what we’re talking about. Rock music doesn’t get much livelier than that. Skip on down to Green Shirt for another track that’s as punchy as they come.

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Elvis Costello – Punch The Clock – A Forgotten Classic


Our White Hot Shootout Winner for 2017

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  • Triple Plus (A+++) sound from start to finish – this is far and away the best sounding copy to ever hit the site
  • Two Costello classics are found on side one: Everyday I Write the Book, and Shipbuilding, with a heartbreaking trumpet solo by none other than Chet Baker himself
  • The bass and the horn sound are the two key elements to getting the right sound on this record, and they’re both As Good As It Gets here (hence the Triple Plus)
  • “Elvis Costello … remains the most consistently interesting songwriter in rock & roll, and there is evidence that a new, more emotionally generous sensibility may soon be present in his work.” Rolling Stone

See all of our Elvis Costello albums in stock

The drums have real body and resonance here, a far cry from the wimpy cardboard drums so many rock records have. Listen to the drum sound on Charm School. Man, those are some BIG FAT PUNCHY DRUMS — very reminiscent of Bowie’s Let’s Dance. The drum sound on that album is some of the best we’ve ever heard, bar none, and this copy was also OUTSTANDING in that regard.

On this copy you get the full-on bottom end WHOMP you paid for, with no loss in control. You can clearly follow Bruce Thomas’s bass lines throughout the songs, a real treat for any music lover. (He and Elvis don’t get along, hence the end of the Attractions as his backing band. I guess we should be thankful for the nine albums on which they were together; many of them are Desert Island Discs for me.)

There’s plenty of low-end on this record; regrettably most copies suffer from either a lack of bass or a lack of bass definition. I can’t tell you how much you’re missing when the bass isn’t right on this album. (Or if you have the typical bass-shy audiophile speaker, yuck.) When the bass is lacking or ill-defined, the music seems labored; the moment-to-moment rhythmic changes in the songs blur together, and the band just doesn’t swing the way it’s supposed to. (more…)

Advice on Elvis Costello’s Recordings

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All About Elvis

TRUST is my favorite Elvis Costello album,  although the first album is every bit as good.

I remember loving the sound of my old Brit copy from twenty years back, even to the point of agreeing with Michael Fremer when he put it on his top 40 rock album list. Now I know better: that most of them leave something to be desired, especially down below. Did I have good one? Does he? Who can say? Everything is different, and revisiting old sonic favorites can sometimes be a bit of a shock. (Of course this is especially true for all the old MOFIs I used to like. Now most of them make me gag.)

Elvis: Still The King

By the way, we played a domestic copy of this album, just for fun you might say, and sure enough, it was a real mess. Boosted highs, poor bass definition and copious amounts of grit and grain — ’70s Columbia at their best, what else is new? The first album and Spike are the only Elvis records I know of that sound good on domestic vinyl. Forget the rest. If you love Elvis Costello as much as we do around here, we suggest you do yourself a favor and trash your domestic LPs — you need a British copy to even get in the ballpark, and that’s far from a guarantee of good sound. Elvis is “Still the King,” but you would never know it without the right pressing.