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As Much of the Alphabet As I need to Know How to Use...
King of America
Elvis Costello
On the Pogues' brilliant "If I Should Fall from Grace With God", there is a song entitled "Fiesta". One of its verses is sung in some sort of Spanish. That verse is about "Costello, el Rey de America y sous spose, Cait O'Riordan..." (or words to that effect).

If you want to interpret that line as an endorsement of this album, i'm sure neither McGowan nor Macmanus would object at all.

If you could look into my own diary of musical experiences, you would find this album noted from when i first listened to it -- "Costello/'King' -- 'Brilliant Mistake/Wear It Proudly/Big Light' ! ; '...as much of the alphabet as she knew how to use...' ! ; American country/blues influences".

If you want to interpret that as my endorsement of this album, i don't mind at all.

If you looked into my CD collection, you'd find this album and no other Elvis Costello -- while i like the overall work and individual songs, no other single album has enough concentrated Good Stuff that i've kept it and/or replaced it if it got lost.

If you want to interpret that as meaning that it's my favourite of his albums, i wouldn't contradict you.

The combination of Costello's usual brilliant wordage and sophisticated while almost deceptively-simple tunage with the underlying heavy usage of and reference to American blues and country themes make this a most unusual album, even from one of the more unusual stars of the last twenty or so years.

Particularly noteworthy are, as in my journal entry "Brilliant Mistake", with that lovely perfect bitchy skewer attack "She said she was working for the ABC News/It was as much of the alphabet as she knew how to use...", "I'll Wear It Proudly", about the ways a man in love (or lust) will let himself be used, "The Big Light", a full-tile boogie Johnny-Cashish rockabilly meditation on how "...it's fine to go out and have a big night/But sooner or later you gotta face the Big Light!".

Other standout tracks include the single "Don't Let Me Be Misunderstood", the off-the-wall "Eisenhower Blues", "Jack of All Parades", with some very neat electronic effects greatly enhancing it and "Indoor Fireworks", which wouldn't be out of place in the catalog of George Jones or Alan Jackson...

A great album by a major talent. As in my case, if you don't have any Elvis Costello, you owe it to yourself to try this one at least. If you already own some of his other albums, you need this one to round out the image.

And if you already have the Columbia release of this, you need to upgrade to this one, with the bonus tracks and the long-form liner notes by EC describing just how it was made and just how badly it was treated by his previous label...