Mark O. (bigfig) from SAINT CHARLES, MO Reviewed on 9/19/2009...
Elvis shatters the expectations
Tim Brough | Springfield, PA United States | 05/05/2007
(5 out of 5 stars)
"When "Imperial Bedroom" first hit the shelves, critics were falling over themselves with superlatives. Even Columbia's "Artist...Masterpiece?" ad campaign was begging the question. Was this the album that would crack the new wave stereotype that had been hung around Elvis Costello's neck since "My Aim Is True?" The answer was yes...and no.
Granted, hiring Geoff Emerick to put his Beatle-esque touches made for a handsome, rich sound, more than any other album in EC's discography. The expansiveness paid off right from the album's opener, "Beyond Belief." Toying with his own range and the overlapping vocal parts, Elvis' willingness to experiment rocked the foundations of all the early "punks" of the period. (Think of how closely Joe Jackson's "Night And Day" and The Police's "Synchronicity" followed.) The experiments were also inherent to the arrangements. The high pitched strings that slip out of the album's fade to "Town Cryer" were four cellos overdubbed to sound like an entire string section, as I recall.
Working from the pretext that they could experiment like the Beatles did, each song was tinkered and toyed with till (as you can hear in the comparisons to the bonus disc's demo versions) they barely resembled their original ideas. It made the original album's side one a song suite of near "Sgt. Pepper" proportions, with the standout of "Man Out Of Time" marking the perfect bridge between the Elvis of old and the Elvis of new. His anguished howl that breaks the song open and then ushers it into the heartbreak of "Almost Blue" reset the boundaries of compositions in 1982.
Comparisons to Gershwin and Porter were also being tossed around when "Imperial Bedroom" first came out, one suspects they had more to do with overzealous critics trying to make associations with "serious music" than to the obvious merits of Elvis' songwriting prowess. The debt to Tin Pan Alley ("The Long Honeymoon") is truly there. But the lyrical jabs and jibes are still pure Costello, and a line like "In a private detective overcoat and dirty deadman's shoes" would be perfect for that kind of stage production cross. I'd be hard pressed to imagine Cole Porter working up the anger behind "Shabby Doll."
In short, the dark and introspective "Imperial Bedroom" was a turning point for Elvis, final proof that he was at the crest of the still expanding wave of British writers that had begun emerging in the early 80's. It was likely the best album of 1982 as well."
From The Truth Society to Neurotic Erotica
K. H. Orton | New York, NY USA | 04/24/2009
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Almost 27 years since its initial release, I find I keep coming back to this album. I must confess, it was the 1st Costello record I bought (we're talking 1985 here) & it made enough of an impact for me to tear through everything that came before it with relish & abandon. In short, it made a fan out of me.
Among Costello devotees there is obviously a healthy, ongoing debate as to which albums deserve "classic" status. By & large, most agree Imperial Bedroom is on that list. The Costello admirers who hoist their fickle disdain on the likes of "Man Out Of Time" are few & far between. The fact that legendary Jazz trumpet great, Chet Baker covered "Almost Blue" to his dying day might also make one think twice as to it's merit.
A lot of ink has been spilled on the "Beatlesque" production, courtesy of Geoff Emerick (The man who twiddled the nobs on a little album called "Sgt. Pepper's"). But one thing that seems to set Bedroom apart from its predecessors is the fact that this is an album Costello pretty much composed on the piano, rather than the guitar. More than anything that preceded it, Cocktail Lounge Cabaret & Rogers & Hart musical stylings take precedence over 1-2-3-4- Rock & Roll. All of which, might just account for any cries of "he's lost his edge".
Yet, regardless of the lavish, chirpy production or the absurd "Gershwin" comparisons Bedroom received, the sentiments of the songs are as dark & jaded as ever. Here domestic unrest meets morning-after malaise. The infectious "insult & flattery" of "Beyond Belief" soon gives way to the eviscerating self-portrait of "Shabby Doll". The best way to sum up might be: all the strings in the world couldn't put Humpty Dumpty back together again.
Personally, I don't find a single dud among Bedroom's 15 tracks. And while, "Man Out of Time" & "Almost Blue" are usually on any given Greatest Hits compilation, lesser known greats like, "Human Hands" & "Pidgin English" need not be overlooked.
For all its seemingly sophisticated studio trickery, Costello's liner notes reveal it actually took 3 Attractions to play the 1 accordion on "Long Honeymoon"...One to hold it in place, another to work the bellows, while Steve Nieve played the keyboard. So perhaps Punk is not dead after all.
Despite this little footnote, Imperial Bedroom is without a doubt one of Costello's most elegant & concise albums. I suppose a case could also be made for it being one of his most self-obsessed. But for me, he rises above the fray of his own self-conflict in a way we all can relate to.
While a bit of a flop in its day, Columbia advertised the album with one word: "Masterpiece?"(much to Costello's embarrassment).
For this discerning fan, the answer is simple: Yes. "
A great album revisited!
Thomas A. Palminteri | Long Island, NY | 09/11/2008
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Imperial Bedroom is an album that has Elvis Costello ( Declan MacManus) at the top of his game as a songwriter. It's true that the album contains very few of his hits but every song is good regardless. What I find striking about Imperial Bedroom is how many different styles EC attempts to write in, we get Jazz ( Almost Blue ), Pop ( The Loved Ones ) Surrealist Rhyme ( Man out of Time ) it almost like a `master-class' in post Beatles songwriting. By the end of the album (I would say the last 7 songs) each song tops the last getting more and more melodious and clever until a wonderful crescendo with Town Crier, one of my all time favorite album closers. Beautiful! The band is also in top form with Steve Naive creating some the best arrangements in rock since the Beatles Abbey Road (comparison intended). To make things even more Beatlesque and masterful the album was produced by Geoff Emerick, the Beatles engineer from many of their masterworks. Of course the strings on And in every Home are great but I really love his piano playing on The Loved Ones. Whenever I hear that track I am reminded of the Scherzo from Schubert's Trout Quintet which Naive may have been quoting musically.
Pigeon English is another more recent favorite of mine off Imperial Bedroom. Songs like that one and Human Hands seem to have Costello penning lyrics right out the Cole Porter scrapbook. There is so much wit and edge and pop-sensibility here it is no wonder that Paul McCartney employed Costello to co-write on a few of his albums in the late 80's-early 90's. If you're a music fan and fan of great song craft Imperial Bedroom is a must listen. Another sidebar: It was reported that Ira Gershwin actually checked out Imperial Bedroom and was impressed. Amazing, right?! That must have went right to EC's head.
The Honeymoon Of Elvis & The Attractions
Andre S. Grindle | Brewer Maine | 04/07/2009
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Pretty much every rock fan knows about the the early history of Elvis Costello...from My Aim Is True to whatever he happens to have been doing in the last decade from collaberations with Burt Bacharach and Allen Toussaint to one (or two maybe) classical projects. Either way around it this one seems to have gotton away from me.I had no idea he recorded it,none of the songs seem at all familiar and it looks like I am definately not the only one who feels that way. So whatever:Costello was obviously pretty content at this point to hang on 180 here because this album doesn look or sound like any Elvis Costello & The Attractions album before it. If you want to make the obvious Beatles comparasin (it's one worth making though) you could look at his previous album Trust and this as being like the Revolver [UK] and Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band of his career:both these albums found Costello following the same musical path with a very gradual transition from 3 minute pop to something more psychedlic.Had it all been done?No-this was very very different. With this album Elvis achieved something that was not only thought next to impossible,with some strong exceptions but that would help influence the world of Brit-pop for decades.He was able to integrate the concept of psychedelic effects into songs that were not only very strong but under 5 minutes. The last four songs on thealbum (as well as the percussive opener "Beyond Belief"),"Pidgin English","You Little Fool" and especially "Town Cryer" give you lot's of strings,leslie amp echoes here and there-the works. But in the hand of new producer Geoff Emmerick it's not very clished;you never know what's coming next. On the other hand there are some moments where other styles tried on earlier albums really come into great focus."Shabby Doll" is a great song;very soulful and very funky,especially the bassline at the end.If the previous album had Elvis Costello's singing was going too in new directions this really takes the cake!Up and down,from song to song he is leaping into this...really very sexy high alto.I would'nt call it falsetto as it seems very natural."Almost Blue" is....just beautiful.It's the title of his very last album but this torchy jazz ballad is definately one of his unsung classics.Same goes for the soulful "Human Hands"."The Long Honeymoon","Kid About It","Little Savage"....well many of things songs are able to be pretty straight ahead and still be innovative. So sure it's forgotton and I'd bet some people give this a good review simply for that purpose:that just because an album is obscure then it's gotta be good. Well that is never entirely true but this is a very strong exception to the rule,as well as being the best place to find the groun zero where post-punk pop met up with....well where the music's gone pretty much today in a lot of ways."