Monday, January 04, 2016

Unfaithful Music & Disappearing Ink by Elvis Costello

Just a tremendous book.  Took me forever to read because I kept turning over corners of pages to go seek out the live sets/jazz songs he was talking about on YouTube, but it's unspeakably lively, the whole thing.

What a songwriter, what a poet, what a musician, what a presence!  It's such a boon, such a gift, when a music-maker and performer as tremendous as Costello also has the extreme page-bent and deigns to write the story of his life in song!

Early on, in my mind, I nit-picked some of his choices of what to tell and how to tell it -- his family history, though relevant and well-written (as the whole book is), impede the pop-reader's progress a bit.

But this is a guy who has spend the last 40 years on stage singing all these songs, and grabbing the time when he's not performing TO WRITE THE MARVELOUS THINGS.

So it's really small of ME to question his narrative arc, as so much of his life was spent in the (for me) higher realm of making music (aka, speaking to the angels).

The book drove me back to some seriously deep cuts-- and I thought I was well-represented, as my 'iTunes" data shows I have 34 albums and 460 songs, totalling '1 day' of total listening, but ECs generous, brilliant writing has shown me I have but scratched the surface of his gift to the world.

Postscript:  book gets annoying in last 200 pages.  EC begins quoting his lyrics at greater length, as they become less well-known to me.  His inserted "short stories" are also baffling. His tendency to narrate his encounter with every celebrity becomes irritating.  To me his first three albums tower over the rest of the work, the first album and the next two with the Attractions.  Then he enters a "pop" period that goes on forever and ever, that features his voice and heavily arranged music.  In the late 80s he has another good string with Blood and Chocolate, and King of America.  Spike is half great.  Then from the 90s on he becomes bewildering -- classical music, jazz and near jazz, opera music.  His album, THE RIVER IN REVERSE, has great Toussaint songs but they suffer as sung by EC-- his voice, which he seems to have grown more enamored with over time, is not very great.  he seems to have stopped sounding like himself after King of America, and trying to assume a proto-liberal American voice that was not his own.  Just saying.

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