In honor of his appearance Wednesday night at Nokia, here are my oddball choices for the best five efforts from Declan Patrick MacManus, better known as Elvis Costello.
1. King of America
This countrified effort from 1986 still doesn't get the kudos it so richly deserves. Songs like "American Without Tears," "Indoor Fireworks," "Brilliant Mistake" and "Sleep of the Just" are some of the best songs Costello has ever written. Even the raw throated cover of "Don't Let Me Be Misunderstood" carries weight. Detractors have called this album long-winded, but hell, the guy is a poet.
2. Imperial Bedroom
"Man Out of Time" is my all time favorite Costello song and the rest of this album follows suit. This was the first Costello album not produced by Nick Lowe and Costello sounds liberated throughout.
3. My Aim is True
Even though the backing band of Costello's debut was none other than Huey Lewis' News, this new Elvis kicked ass all the way through. If you can find it, check out the live version of "Alison" on the pricey five-CD live set, Elvis Costello & Steve Nieve.
4. All This Useless Beauty
Now, I know the old school Costello-heads are gonna be pissed that this 1996 effort is in the top five of any list, but songs like "The Other End of the Telescope," "You Bowed Down" and the title track all fit comfortably in the upper reaches of the Costello canon. Again, check out a beautiful version of "Telescope" on the live Costello & Nieve set.
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5. Get Happy!!
Crammed onto vinyl, the twenty songs on Costello's fourth album sounded rushed, tinny and distant. Incredibly, the album was still great and several songs ("New Amsterdam," "Motel Matches") are remarkable.