Elvis Costello’s “Live at Hollywood High” (Recorded 1978; Released 2010) – The Weekend Review

Originally posted 2010-01-31 23:37:34. Republished by Blog Post Promoter

By Chris Moore:

RATING:  4 / 5 stars

With all the confidence and cohesion that comes across on Live at Hollywood High, it is difficult to believe that this is a document of a performance that took place only a year after Elvis Costello’s debut album was released.  One might think that a live album recorded so early in an artist’s career would be a study in a live act finding their sound, featuring a young group aspiring to greatness and working out the kinks along the way.

The opposite is true.

It is clear that, by 1978,  Elvis Costello and the Attractions had been working together closely enough to forge a sound all their own, and one that sounds like it had been planned, rehearsed, and perfected over years of live performances.

And yet they were barely a year in at the time of this concert.

There is something compelling about Elvis Costello’s lyrics, dipped in wordplay and soaked with sarcasm.  His vocals here, as on his best work, are unique and striking.  Likewise, his band works as one united front, Pete Thomas acting as the backbone of the operation, keeping a steady beat and  laying down fills wherever appropriate.

I could listen to Thomas drum all day…

Elvis Costello's "Live at Hollywood High"

Elvis Costello's "Live at Hollywood High"

The concert begins with a poignant version of “Accidents Will Happen,” composed of simply a piano and Costello’s lead vocal.  I like the album version of this song, but I absolutely love this live version.

The slow, serious sound of the opening track is no indication of what is to come, which becomes apparent as the second song, “Mystery Dance,” is launched.  Drawing on references to Shakespeare’s Romeo & Juliet and taking sonic cues from blues rock, this song sets the precedent for all the others to come: upbeat, passionate, and infectious.

The highlights are certainly the rockers that come across even better live than they did in the studio, songs like “Lip Service,” “This Year’s Girl,” and “Radio Radio.”  Each of these songs attacks human behavior in modern society, and it is interesting to see how these songs are still relevant at the opening of 2010.

In fact, if Costello were to write the second song again, it might be abbreviated to “This Month’s Girl,” or updated to “Internet, Internet” for the second song.

Overall, their pacing and stage presence is outstanding.  “Stranger in the House” is about as slow as Costello and the Attractions get in this concert, and yet it does not feel like a series of very similar songs played at the same speed.

Although he does not speak all that often, when Costello does address the crowd, it is to good effect.  He knows just how to elicit screams and wild cheers (asking, before playing “This Year’s Girl,” if there are any girls present), and he knows just when to introduce hints of what is to come in the show (announcing at the end of one song that he is about to play “Alison”).  This young Elvis Costello is even more funny and quirky than I would have imagined, dedicating “Living in Paradise” to “all the boys on the track, all the boys in the locker room, all the physical jerks…”

How an artist was able to compile such an impressive set list so early in his career, I will never know.  But, what I do know is that Live at Hollywood High plays as a greatest hits at some times, and as an homage to deep tracks at others.

Analyze these and other factors as much as you care to; the bottom line is this:

Elvis Costello & the Attractions play their hearts out, as though their tenure in the music industry and in the hearts of their fans depend on it.  For me, Costello’s performance functioned in the way all music executives dream of…

…it made me want to buy more of his music!

“Alison” by Elvis Costello – Chords, Tabs, & How to Play

Originally posted 2010-02-01 19:48:54. Republished by Blog Post Promoter

“Alison”
Elvis Costello

Intro:  A   E   A   E

E               A                                           E
Oh, it’s so funny to be seeing you after so long, girl,
E                  A                                                 G#m                  C#m
And with the way you look, I understand that you were not impressed.
A                                          G#m       C#m
But I heard you let that little friend of mine
D                                 B7
Take off your party dress…

A                             G#m        C#m
I’m not going to get too sentimental like those
A                            G#m        C#m
other sticky valentines.
A                                                     G#m           C#m
‘Cause I don’t know if you’ve been loving somebody;
D                             B7
I only know it isn’t mine.

A    E     A              B7         G#m   C#m
Alison, I know this world is killing you…
C#m    A    E    A    B7     E
Oh,      Alison, my aim is true.

Well, I see you’ve got a husband now.
Did he leave your pretty fingers lying in the wedding cake?
You used to hold him right in your hand;
I’ll bet he took all he could take.

Sometimes I wish that I could stop you from talking
When I hear the silly things that you say.
I think somebody better put out the big light,
‘Cause I can’t stand to see you this way

Alison, I know this world is killing you.
Oh, Alison…  My aim is true.

My aim is true. (repeat & fade)

** These chords and lyrics are interpretations and transcriptions, respectively, and are the sole property of the copyright holder(s). They are posted on this website free of charge for no profit for the purpose of study and commentary, as allowed for under the “fair use” provision of U.S. copyright law, and should only be used for such personal and/or academic work. **

“(What’s So Funny ‘Bout) Peace, Love, and Understanding” (Elvis Costello Cover)

Originally posted 2008-07-21 23:59:20. Republished by Blog Post Promoter

By Chris Moore:

Hello and welcome to another all-new Laptop Session, brought to you by the music blog devoted to great new rock music. My acoustic cover song tonight is not a new rock song, but it is a classic by an artist that did release an excellent album this year. That artist is Elvis Costello and the song is “(What’s So Funny ‘Bout) Peace, Love, and Understanding.” I had actually planned on recording (and did, in fact) record a different song for my session tonight, but after I finished that one, I went on to this Elvis Costello tune and liked how it came out so much that I had to post it tonight. For whatever reason (the amount of time that I had been singing previously, the air conditioning taking all the moisture out of the air in the house, or my allergies), my voice was somewhat rough for this recording. Normally, that would be enough for me to put down the guitar and wait for another day. However, I think it worked for the emotion that is supposed to be conveyed by this track. Aside from the very end of this take when my voice is simply too shot to hit the notes I wanted to hit (please feel free to laugh at the ridiculous look on my face), I’m happy with how it came out.

This is one my favorite Elvis Costello songs of all time, and it’s a perfect track to bring to this music blog, as it has been recorded as a cover song previously by such bands as the Wallflowers. It’s a fairly simple song with simple chords, simple but great lyrics, and a simple message that I know Ringo Starr would love, and it translates very well to acoustic guitar. That being said, Jim and I did some research tonight and were shocked to find that although he is listed as #80 on the list of best rock artists ever, he has had very few songs chart well, especially on the Billboard Hot 100. It’s amazing that his most popular songs really aren’t as successful as you might expect for an artist of his standing. That either says something about him or, more likely, the system. (Especially considering that this is a system that barely recognizes the existence of such talented and influential acts as the Moody Blues…)

If you’re a regular viewer of the Laptop Sessions, you’ll get another dose of Elvis Costello very soon — his new rock music on this year’s Momofuku is some of my favorite from him and is easily in my personal top four or five albums of the year (and this is saying alot, as I’ve heard somewhere approaching fifteen new albums this year already!).

Whatever you do, don’t go too far; Jeff will be back tomorrow with an all-new acoustic cover song music video for your listening and viewing pleasure…

See you next session!



Yes, No, or Maybe So: One-Sentence Reviews of 2009 Albums

Originally posted 2010-03-27 12:30:03. Republished by Blog Post Promoter

(Arranged in ascending order by release date)

With so many albums being released every week, what are they all like?  Which are worth your time?  These one-sentence reviews are the answers to those questions!

Battle Studies – (John Mayer) – MAYBE

(November 17, 2009) – CLICK HERE FOR A FULL REVIEW Review: Battle Studies may not be Mayer’s best work, but as a thoughtfully arranged collection of songs, it’s head and shoulders above Continuum. Top Two Tracks: “Heartbreak Warfare” – “Assassin”

Alter the Ending – (Dashboard Confessional) – MAYBE

(November 10, 2009) Review: About mid-way through, some tracks begin to blend together, but there are some standout songs that are both upbeat and engaging. Top Two Tracks: “Belle of the Boulevard” – “Until Morning”

Sainthood – (Tegan and Sara) – MAYBE

(October 27, 2009) Review: Their best work since So Jealous. Top Two Tracks: “Someday” – “Don’t Rush”

One Fast Move or I’m Gone – (Jay Farrar & Ben Gibbard) – MAYBE

(October 20, 2009) Review: Not a breathtaking masterpiece by any means, but there is a hypnotic quality to the combination of Farrar and Gibbard’s sounds and Jack Kerouac’s words. Top Two Tracks: “These Roads Don’t Move” – “California Zephyr”

The Fountain – (Echo & the Bunnymen) – MAYBE SO

(October 12, 2009) Review: Most reviews have jumped to the extremes, and mine is no exception; The Fountain is an outstanding rock album from a band that most major music magazines have essentially ignored. Top Two Tracks: “Live of a Thousand Crimes” – “Drivetime”

Forget and Not Slow Down – (Relient K) – YES

(October 6, 2009) – CLICK HERE FOR A FULL REVIEW Review: Hands down the best concept album of the year, perhaps the best album of the year overall. Top Two Tracks: “Part of It” – “Sahara”

Backspacer – (Pearl Jam) – YES

(September 20, 2009) – CLICK HERE FOR A FULL REVIEW Review: This is the album that may single-handedly be responsible for my eventual hearing loss – it’s simply too much fun not to listen to at high volumes. Top Two Tracks: “Got Some” – “Speed of Sound”

Levitate – (Bruce Hornsby & the Noise Makers) – NO

(September 15, 2009) Review: I try to avoid comparisons to past work, but this new Hornsby album is just a little too far out from the norm for my tastes. Top Two Tracks: “Space is the Place” – “In the Low Country”

A Brief History of Love – (The Big Pink) – NO, PLEASE, NO!

(September 14, 2009) Review: I’m reminded of the Byrds song “Everybody Gets Burned” – if you have any respect for rock music, steer clear of this album and do your best to never consider this band and the amazing debut release of The Band (to which their name alludes) in the same thought. Top Two Tracks: n/a

Humbug – (Arctic Monkeys) – MAYBE SO

(August 25, 2009) Review: The distance between how little I like early songs like “I Bet You Look Good on the Dancefloor” compared with how much I like this new release is vast; overall, Humbug has a cohesive, infectious, and interesting sound, blending alternative rock/punk stylings with echoes of the Who and the Moody Blues in all the right places. Top Two Tracks: “Crying Lightning” – “Cornerstone”

My Old, Familiar Friend – (Brendan Benson) – MAYBE SO

(August 18, 2009) Review: From “A Whole Lot Better” onward, Benson’s latest release is joyful power pop that borrows generously from the sixties and seventies; it’s a great deal of fun from start to finish. Top Two Tracks: “Garbage Day” – “Misery”

Release – (Sister Hazel) – MAYBE NOT

(August 18, 2009) Review: This album is the perfect choice for background music: it is consistently upbeat without being too frenetic, certainly won’t offend anyone, and yet isn’t likely to inspire or even excite anyone either – the heinous typos in the booklet don’t help their cause. Top Two Tracks: “Vacation Rain” – “Ghost in the Crowd”

Ursa Major – (Third Eye Blind) – MAYBE NOT

(August 17, 2009) Review: There will supposedly be another 3eb release soon titled Ursa Minor, culled from tracks that didn’t make the cut for this album; suffice it to say that Ursa Major gets an “eh” and barely a “Maybe Not” rating with the so-called best songs from their recent sessions, so… Top Two Tracks: “Bonfire” – “Summer Town”

xx – (The xx) – MAYBE SO

(August 17, 2009) Review: This debut release by the xx is a gripping, murky, beautiful collection of songs that won’t fail to draw you in to their world each listen. Top Two Tracks: “VCR” – “Shelter”

The Ruminant Band – (Fruit Bats) – MAYBE SO

(August 4, 2009) Review: Aptly titled after the Fruit Bats took twice as long as usual to release this record, The Ruminant Band is worth all the extra wait time:  still quirky but with a lot more energy, backbeat, and attention to making a great album, rather than just a compilation of songs. Top Two Tracks: “The Ruminant Band” – “Singing Joy to the World”

Strange Cousins From The West – (Clutch) – MAYBE NOT

(July 14, 2009) Review: You’ll have to go back to Blast Tyrant or so if you want original, innovative Clutch; what you’ll find here is confined by the blues parameters the band has imposed on themselves – which is not to say you won’t find largely powerful performances of largely predictably structured songs and a couple true gems. Top Two Tracks: “50,000 Unstoppable Watts” – “Minotaur”

Horehound – (The Dead Weather) – MAYBE SO

(July 14, 2009) Review: The Dead Weather certainly deserve credit for having forged a unique sound and presence – Jack White best described their music as “ferocious” – but the riffing, repetition, and other indulgences can be distracting; overall, as a debut release, Horehound is promising… Top Two Tracks: “I Cut Like A Buffalo” – “Hang You From the Heavens”

Ocean Eyes – (Owl City) – MAYBE

(July 14, 2009) Review: A bit too placid for me, but I can perceive at least part of the reason that this album’s simple, soothing numbers have spread so quickly and been embraced by so many. Top Two Tracks: “Fireflies” – “The Bird and the Worm”

American Central Dust – (Son Volt) – NO

(July 7, 2009) Review: As the title implies, Son Volt’s latest album could have been found buried in a collection of Americana; while it certainly hits high points on certain tracks, the simplicity of the arrangements and even the packaging (no lyrics – really?) confine this album to mediocrity. Top Two Tracks: “No Turning Back” – “Jukebox of Steel”

Leaving Wonderland…in a fit of rage – (Marcy Playground) – MAYBE

(July 7, 2009) – CLICK HERE FOR A FULL REVIEW Review: Overall, Leaving Wonderland hits emotional pay dirt with the theme of losing love and youth to the ravages of time, and yet John Wozniak’s lyrics and arrangements leave much to be desired in terms of depth and artistry. Top Two Tracks: “Gin and Money” – “I Burned the Bed”

Wilco (the album) – (Wilco) – YES

(June 30, 2009) – CLICK HERE FOR A FULL REVIEW Review: An atypically brief release, Wilco (the album) is dominated by a wide range of interesting sounds and ideas all packed into tight tracks that ebb and flow just right; multiple listens are a must. Top Two Tracks: “Wilco (the song)” – “You Never Know”

Big Whiskey & the GrooGrux King (Dave Matthews Band) – MAYBE

(June 2, 2009) Review: “DMB” has produced a very strong album that starts off with focused, expressive tracks yet lags somewhat in the second half’s instrumental, repetitive, and nonsensical indulgences. Top Two Tracks: “Funny The Way It Is” – “Time Bomb”

Secret, Profane, and Sugarcane (Elvis Costello) – MAYBE SO

(June 2, 2009) Review: Finally, a stripped-down recording from a rock artist that doesn’t reek of the urge to “jump on the acoustic train”; Costello’s songs here could just as convincingly  have been recorded a century ago. Top Two Tracks: “Complicated Shadows” – “Sulphur to Sugarcane”

21st Century Breakdown (Green Day) – YES

(May 15, 2009) – CLICK HERE FOR A FULL REVIEW Review: Another concept album of epic proportions from Green Day:  big, in-your-face power chords at some points, acoustic guitar and piano high in the mix at others, and strong vocals all around – a well-executed album from start to finish. Top Two Tracks: “Last Night on Earth” – “East Jesus Nowhere”

Together Through Life (Bob Dylan) – MAYBE SO

(April 28, 2009) – CLICK HERE FOR A FULL REVIEW Review: As per usual, Dylan says it best: “I know my fans will like it; other than that, I have no idea.” Top Two Tracks: “Shake Shake Mama” – “I Feel a Change Comin’ On”

Tinted Windows (Tinted Windows) – NO

(April 21, 2009) Review: I remembered while listening to this that there’s a reason I stopped buying Fountains of Wayne albums since Traffic & Weather, and there’s certainly a reason I’ve never bought Hanson albums. Top Two Tracks: “Back With You” – “Nothing to Me”

Halfway There (Jim Fusco) – YES

(April 7, 2009) – CLICK HERE FOR A FULL REVIEW Review: It’s as if all of Fusco’s previous work was only “halfway there” – combining ambitious vocals, innovative guitar parts, and a track listing that boasts eleven great songs, this is easily one of the great albums of 2009. Top Two Tracks: “I Got You” – “Ruins”

The Hazards of Love (The Decemberists) – MAYBE NOT

(March 24, 2009) Review: The Hazards of Love will keep you guessing and trying to piece it all together, but it may not get a lot of immediate repeat listens based on the quality of individual songs; kudos to the Decemberists if only for keeping the concept of the concept album alive and well! Top Two Tracks: “The Wanting Comes in Waves/Repaid” – “The Hazards of Love 4 (The Drowned)”

No Line On The Horizon (U2) – MAYBE NOT

(March 3, 2009) Review: There’s something to be said for Bono’s energy, but it’s not always enough on this record which fluctuates between moments of mastery and moments of mediocrity. Top Two Tracks: “I’ll Go Crazy If I Don’t Go Crazy Tonight” – “Stand Up Comedy”

Keep It Hid (Dan Auerbach) – MAYBE

(February 10, 2009) Review: Essentially, what you would expect — gritty, bluesy rock with excellent guitar work. Top Two Tracks: “Heartbroken, In Disrepair” – “My Last Mistake”

Working On A Dream (Bruce Springsteen) – MAYBE SO

(January 27, 2009)  –  CLICK HERE FOR A FULL REVIEW Review: The past three Springsteen albums have been exercises in purposeful songwriting, raw acoustic and harmonica work, and upbeat pop/rock respectively — Working On A Dream has it all! Top Two Tracks: “What Love Can Do” – “Life Itself”