NEW YORK: Elvis Costello’s 32nd album begins with the sound of a tight rock n roll combo sweating together on a small stage, feeding off each other to create a joyful noise.
Yet it is all a mirage.
Costello and his three-piece band, The Imposters, were never in the same city, much less than in the same room, as they created The Boy Named If, which is out Friday. Like everyone else, they were waiting for the coronavirus and wanted to do something productive.
After writing, Costello would make an initial recording of a song with his vocals and guitar at his home in Vancouver. He would send it to Pete Thomas, who retreated to his basement in Los Angeles to add drums. Bass player Davy Faragher was keyboardist Steve Nias before being deported to France. Nicole Atkins added guest vocals on the song My Most Beautiful Mistake from fifth place.
Sometimes they jerry-rigged the FaceTime connection so they could see each other, although this was not conducive to recording due to the delay in each connection.
Costello said producer Sebastian Criss did a great job telling it from his home that it was built with a construction kit.
I think everyone surprised themselves by how we found ourselves playing in our basement or empty room and how alive it looked, he said. We didn’t let him stop. When we found out it worked, it got us excited.
The image of the Beatles in the movie Get Back romanticized the idea of a band forming music by working face-to-face and kicking off ideas.
But the idea of creating songs via multi-track recording predates the Beatles, said Prince Charles Alexander, a professor at Berklee College of Music and a producer/audio engineer who worked with the likes of Sting, Luther Vandross and Aretha Franklin. Work done.
He said the technology advanced around the turn of this century and became affordable to the point where most musicians effectively have studios in their homes. While there was a fear that home recording would feel sterile and lacking soul, we now have a generation of producers, recording engineers and producers who are like this, he said.
Due to Coronavirus, many musicians have no option but to work alone.
When the weather was nice in Vancouver, Costello set it up on his back porch, adding a much quieter sound than the record had, the singer said.
In fact, The Boy Named If is full of energy, with almost all of the up-tempo songs driven by guitars. The arrangements are highly sought after by Costello’s voice, and the underrated Thomas gives some of his best drumming on the record.
In the album’s liner notes, the band gives a special thanks to our spouses from these lice for letting us racket around the house.
While the untrained ear alone could not detect any difference between the sound of the set-up and the sound of the band on stage, the order in which the works were performed made for an interesting departure. Neve’s keyboards have provided the musical framework for much of Costello’s music throughout his career, but in this case they were the last instruments to be added.
We’ll send it to Steve and he’ll say, what should I do? You’re already finished,’ Costello said. “I said, ‘I think you’ll find where to play.’
It feels a little different, he said. Steve is playing at different places in Flow. He was answering where he was moving normally. Apart from his simplicity and everything in choosing the place to play, not only did the game look fresh.
The disc’s title song provides a loose thematic frame for the collection of songs, forming the image of a child’s imaginary friend if he expanded into adulthood.
I was comparing it to the pretext of a child. Oh, it was my imaginary friend who broke it, he said. In the case of a child, it is usually a cup or vase, not a heart or a vow made by you.
Costello, 67, has been busy during the pandemic. The Boy Named If is their third release in 14 months, following Hey Clockface album and Spanish Model, where Spanish-language singers switched their vocals on their 1978 album This Year Model. Oh, don’t forget the EPs of French versions of some Hey Clockface songs.
A decade ago, he was openly talking about ending his recording career and focusing on live performances.
Like many music fans, he was absorbed in the Beatles film Get Back. Unlike anyone else, Costello is a Rock and Roll Hall of Fame member raised in Liverpool who co-wrote some songs with Paul McCartney during the 1980s.
He practically screamed at his TV during the passage where George Harrison telling John Lennon that he was stuck on some song, wondering how to complete the line, fascinates me…
How can you not see that it must be no other lover”? Isn’t it clear?
It’s very comforting for anyone who has ever stumbled upon a guitar to see that this very famous band gets exposed at times, until a truly inspired line arrives. Till is doing anything to fill the space, he said. It wasn’t all done with quill pens and flourishing poems.
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