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King of America

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Editors’ Notes

Elvis Costello’s previous two albums, 1983’s Punch the Clock and 1984’s Goodbye Cruel World, were glossy, overproduced pop records that had their moments but lacked the artist’s usual masterly focus. For King of America, Costello switched his performing name back to his birth name (Declan Patrick MacManus), used the Attractions on just one cut (the excellent “Suit of Lights”) and employed seasoned session pros for the rest (including Elvis Presley’s guitarist James Burton), resulting in the most relaxed recordings of his career. (The newly bearded bard also billed the album to “The Costello Show”) Beginning with acoustic guitar and working from there with stand-up acoustic bass, organ and the lightest drum touch to date, Costello’s exquisite melodies were left simple and unencumbered. This ‘naked’ approach lends genuine intimacy to his word-dizzy obsessions. “Indoor Fireworks” gently resolves with a “smoke gets in your eye” conclusion, but in between the struggle is minutely catalogued. “Brilliant Mistake,” “American Without Tears” and an emotionally charged reading of the Animals hit “Don’t Let Me Be Misunderstood” come bleeding to the foreground. Costello may stretch his metaphors, but his voice resists his usual strain.

Customer Reviews

Don't start here.

This is the Costello album you work up to. It's not as immediately accessible as the ones that proceeded it, but it's his high water mark to date. The 30-second snippets only give you a little clue about how well it works as an album; the songs perform that magic trick of getting better with every listen. In the best of all worlds, Apple would have included the liner notes Costello wrote for the remastered Rykodisc versions. The obsessive collectors need something to pass the time, I guess.

Great Album

We used to listen to this album all the time at a coffee shop I worked at. It quickly became one of my all time favorites. Though there aren't any big hit singles on here there's not a bad song in the bunch. My favorite Costello album net to Armed Forces.

Perhaps Elvis' Best

This album is one of my all time favorites by ANYONE. The biting lyrics of Indoor Fireworks, the spareness and anguish of Little Palaces - no one can put things cuttingly like Elvis can. Then he can evoke an past era with American Without Tears ( a waltz, which makes me get up and dance everytime I hear it). The Big Light is a fast paced gem and the last songs build to a sad/pensive conclusion.You must listen more than once to appreciate this album - I fact I didn't like it at first listen. But soon afterward I grew to LOVE it. I love every song on this album,except maybe Glitter Gulch and Eisenhower Blues. I listen it it often.


Born: August 25, 1954 in Paddington, London, England

Genre: Rock

Years Active: '70s, '80s, '90s, '00s, '10s

When Elvis Costello's first record was released in 1977, his bristling cynicism and anger linked him with the punk and new wave explosion. A cursory listen to My Aim Is True proves that the main connection that Costello had with the punks was his unbridled passion; he tore through rock's back pages taking whatever he wanted, as well as borrowing from country, Tin Pan Alley pop, reggae, and many other musical genres. Over his career, that musical eclecticism distinguished his records as much as his...
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