By Mitch Holt, Staff Writer
As the ’60s ended, when Beatlemania was reluctantly coming to an end and our parents’ hair was losing a few inches, music took a backseat to rehabilitation clinics and tie-dye burning festivals. During these years of musical rebuilding, a delightful little music scene was forming across the Atlantic in the heartland of England. The punk rock movement took full swing as youngsters zealously preached their anti-Thatcher, anti-capitalist gospel, and the day of DIY (Do It Yourself) began its reign.
Caught in the mix of this era, Elvis Costello distanced himself from this scene musically but became a role model in his lyrics of substance and ironic angst. He was linked to the punk rockers simply because of his relentless lyrics. Costello is arguably one of the greatest musicians of all time on an album-to-album basis. Approaching a 30-year career, Costello still plays small clubs in cities all over the globe-by choice.
Costello, born Declan McManus in London in 1955, went to school until he was 17, dropped out and worked as a computer programmer and folk club performer until he was signed to Stiff Records in the mid ’70s. Costello’s debut album, My Aim is True, was released in 1977 and was a stepping-stone into the next wave of popular music. Hints of The Beatles and Elvis Presley are sprinkled sporadically throughout the album, but not enough to dub the release unoriginal.
In the early to middle years of his career, Costello dabbled in musical collaborations, but dwelled mainly in the world of his solo career. More recently, Costello has become known for his collaborations, especially his arguably most famous collaboration with Burt Bacharach. Why this is, I don’t know.
The Delivery Man, Costello’s most recent full-length release, was recorded in the heart of the Delta-Oxford, Miss.,- located between his musical birthplace, Tupelo, and Memphis, Tenn. Memphis, birthplace of blues and stepfather of rock-and-roll, is clearly audible in the album, as much as a city can actually be heard in a musical composition.
Twangy steel guitars provide a good ole country feel to the album as well. Perhaps the star pupil in Costello’s list of tracks that make up the album is Nothing Clings Like Ivy. The song features female country legend Emmylou Harris and is pure country and pure awesome through and through.
The lyrics are solid, subtle, less abrasive and picturesque. Costello’s words paint a different picture with every song. The songs become slightly repetitive after awhile and I found myself skipping through the last half of a song or two here and there, but this isn’t too detrimental to the album.
Perhaps the most inspiring aspect of the album isn’t in the songwriting or the presence of legendary accompaniment. The songwriting is good, and very few elements can beat musical cameos from Emmylou Harris and Lucinda Williams, but the vintage sound of the album is what drew me in. We now live in a recording world of multi-tracking, note-altering and, well, cheating, but Costello keeps it real on The Delivery Man. The album, recorded in mid-2004, doesn’t sound completely old fashioned, but holds the precise rawness that an old-time rock ‘n’ roll/Memphis blues/country album should have.
The album gets my marks. Pick up The Delivery Man and indulge in Elvis Costello.