Elvis Costello: The Studio Albums

“Back in 1977, naturally, someone asked him, Why Elvis?’ and he said, ‘It’s like wearing a crown, because people expect something of you. I don’t mind that. I’m prepared to give them all I can.’ Remarkably, he kept his word.”

“Hence his productivity – more than an album a year counting collaborations – and his diversity – pop, jazz, classical. Even when his wordplay’s so pumped up it’s muscle-bound and his music so tightly wound it’s a tangle, his determination to improve has proved boundless. Consider: invited to compose for an Italian ballet company, he studied orchestration from scratch so that he could handwrite the 200 pages of charts which eventually comprised Il Sogno.”

“An alert self-critic, Costello does know he can be entirely too much, as he acknowledged to MOJO in 1998: ‘I’ve tended to put so much into records that sometimes to enjoy it requires you to become me. Believe me, you don’t want to.’”

“That would be because of all the frustration, mutual betrayal, jealousy, disappointment, loneliness and general malfunctioning of human relationships he dwells on in his songwriting. There again, this well-travelled man (not just as the ultimate label tourist) and profoundly experienced artist can be relied on to show us what ails us most, scour it with irony and scrub off the self-pity so that maybe we can just get on.”

“Perhaps the ‘Elvis’ was to make it, ultimately, not about him, to help hims step away from ego towards lyrics. As Jon Savage wrote way back, reviewing My Aim Is True for Sounds, ‘Personally, these ears find Elvis less than loveable, let alone likeable, but that’s not what he deals in.’ Which is to say he doesn’t care for look-at-me, his whole concern is listen-to-this.” – Phil Sutcliffe, Mojo, pages 170-1.

Note: “the TV soundtracks and ballet Il Sogno are a shade bereft without their visual accompaniments. But Costello’s classical collaborations, The Juliet Letters (with the Brodsky string quartet) and For the Stars (pop sung by soprano Anne Sofie Von Otter) in no way deserve the eye-rolling they tend to attract. Occasionally, though, one of his 20-plus mainstream albums fails to spark – Mighty Like a Rose and covers collection Kojak Variety are too much like hard work, while Costello’s own sleevenote to Goodbye Cruel World snorted, ‘Congratulations! You’ve just bought our worst record!’ He knew whereof he spoke.” – Phil Sutcliffe, Mojo, pages 170-1.

  1. My Aim Is True (1977)
  2. This Year’s Model (1978)
  3. Armed Forces (1979)
  4. Get Happy!! (1980)
  5. Trust (1981)
  6. Almost Blue (1981)
  7. Imperial Bedroom (1982)
  8. Punch the Clock (1983)
  9. Goodbye Cruel World (1984)
  10. King of America (1986)
  11. Blood and Chocolate (1986)
  12. Spike (1989)
  13. Mighty Like a Rose (1991)
  14. The Juliet Letters (with the Brodsky Quartet, 1993)
  15. Brutal Youth (1994)
  16. Kojak Variety (1995)
  17. All This Useless Beauty (1996)
  18. Painted from Memory (with Burt Bacharach, 1998)
  19. For the Stars (with Anne Sofie von Otter, 2001)
  20. When I Was Cruel (2002)
  21. North (2003)
  22. Il Sogno (2004)
  23. The Delivery Man (2004)
  24. The River in Reverse (with Allen Toussaint, 2006)
  25. Momofuku (2008)
  26. Secret, Profane & Sugarcane (2009)
  27. National Ransom (2010)

My Aim Is True

Released: July 22, 1977 Peak: 32 14 Sales (in millions): 1.0 0.06 1.06

Tracks: 1. Welcome to the Working Week 2. Miracle Man 3. No Dancing 4. Blame It on Cain 5. Alison 6. Sneaky Feelings 7. The Angels Wanna Wear My Red Shoes 8. Less Than Zero 9. Mystery Dance 10. Pay It Back 11. I’m Not Angry 12. Waiting for the End of the World 13. Watching the Detectives *

* only on U.S. version

Review: “A geeky, awkward 22-year-old computer programmer who’d stored up a century’s workth of resentment, Costello made his first album in a hurry with Clover, a bland American band. But the amazing material cuts through the dim performances: bitter country songs hopped up on bitter coffee and arranged as sneering rock, plus a cruelly honest ballad he never stopped playing (Alison).” – Douglas Wolk, Blender magazine (3/05), pp. 156-8.

“Steeped in soul, R&B and beat groups and, pre-Attractions, backed by California craftsmen Clover, Costello burst on ’77 as a punk-compatible ‘extraordinarily bitter person’ – but way too sophisticated for safety pins. While less coherently written than its successor, this debut is rich in sour, sullied treasures, including Miracle Man, Sneaky Feelings, I’m Not Angry and The Angels Wanna Wear My Read Shoes (‘Oh I said, I’m so happy, I could die/ She said, ‘Drop dead’). Of course, ‘Alison’ wears the thorny crown – a perfectly apt switch to balladry because it sees distance and a degree of empathy dilute bilious self-obsession.” – Phil Sutcliffe, Mojo, pages 170-1.

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This Year’s Model

Released: March 17, 1978 Peak: 30 4 Sales (in millions): 0.5 0.1 0.6

Tracks: 1. No Action 2. This Year’s Girl 3. The Beat 4. Pump It Up 5. Little Triggers 6. You Belong to Me 7. Hand in Hand 8. I Don’t Want to Go to Chelsea * 9. Lip Service 10. Living in Paradise 11. Lipstick Vogue 12. Night Rally * 13. Radio, Radio **

* U.K. version only ** U.S. version only

Review: “The Attractions, the ad hoc band Costello had assembled for a tour, turned out to be perfect creative foils. On his second album, they made a New Wave breakthrough, propelled by the frothing skinny-tie attack of Steve Nieve’s organ. The songs are terse, snarky disembowelments of romantic clichés – Costello described the record as ‘more vicious overall’ than My Aim Is True, which is saying something.” – Douglas Wolk, Blender magazine (3/05), pp. 156-8.

“Apart from the anti-Nazi Night Rally, every track seethes with love unrealized, longing frustrated, decent human qualities twisted by rejection and jealousy. Whether the object of this pent-up humiliation is a distant beauty (This Year’s Girl and I Don’t Want to Go to Chelsea) or a former lover (No Action, Little Triggers and others), Costello’s relentless consistency of tone enthralls like a snake. Sure, he’s got tunes, pumped-up ‘60s sounds from across the spectrum, performances slick and sharp as you like – but it’s all at the service of writing and singing that turn pop music into an acid bath.” – Phil Sutcliffe, Mojo, pages 170-1.

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Armed Forces

Released: January 5, 1979 Peak: 10 2 Sales (in millions): 0.5 0.3 0.8

Tracks: 1. Accidents Will Happen 2. Senior Service 3. Oliver's Army 4. Big Boys 5. Green Shirt 6. Party Girl 7. Goon Squad 8. Busy Bodies 9. Sunday's Best 10. Moods for Moderns 11. Chemistry Class 12. Two Little Hitlers

Review: “A songwriting landmark about nasty collisions of the personal and the political – the working title was Emotional Fascism. The Attractions, vacuum-tight after a solid year on the road, frame Costello’s show-offishly catchy melodies and acerbic wordplay in grand, tricky arrangements. Secret power-pop weapon: producer Nick Lowe, who wrote the magnificent rocker (What’s So Funny ‘Bout) Peace, Love and Understanding?.” – Douglas Wolk, Blender magazine (3/05), pp. 156-8.

“While part of the late-‘70s Rock Against Racism ethos, Armed Forces is no period piece thanks to Costello’s strenuously subtle way with a theme. Oliver’s Army and Goon Squad are tales of burgeoning fascism among militaristic buffers, old and young, but with Senior Service or Chemistry Class, Costello examines Fuehrer-and-follower tendencies in work, sex, life generally – as he sings in Two Little Hitlers, ‘She’s my soft touch typewriter/ And I’m the great dictator.’ But the band’s bustle began to feel limited and his punning suggested a stint in Lit. rehab beckoned.” – Phil Sutcliffe, Mojo, pages 170-1.

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Get Happy!!

Released: February 15, 1980 Peak: 11 2 Sales (in millions): -- 0.1 0.1

Tracks: 1. Love for Tender 2. Opportunity 3. The Imposter 4. Secondary Modern 5. King Horse 6. Possession 7. Men Called Uncle 8. Clowntime Is Over 9. New Amsterdam 10. High Fidelity 11. I Can't Stand Up For Falling Down 12. Black & White World 13. 5ive Gears in Reverse 14. B Movie 15. Motel Matches 16. Human Touch 17. Beaten to the Punch 18. Temptation 19. I Stand Accused 20. Riot Act

Review: “Exhausted with New Wave and reeling from a disastrous, drunken brawl in Ohio that left him charged with racism and convicted of assholedom, Costello bought a big stack of old singles for inspiration and reinvented the Attractions as a high-speed Stax- and Motown-inspired ‘60s R&B act. The unexpected but brilliant result plays like anybody else’s greatest-hits album: an enormous pile of compact, witty melody-grenades.” – Douglas Wolk, Blender magazine (3/05), pp. 156-8.

“Fed up with himself and the bristling, sneery sound of his first three albums, Costello bought 50 quid’s worth of soul singles and recalibrated. Every track grew from ‘failed’ attempts to imitate Booker T., Al Green and other immortals. But no soulster ever cranked it up to frantic like him – as on hits I Can’t Stand Up for Falling Down and High Fidelity – nor poured such wild energy into bitter, cryptic wordplay. His harangues re money, love, and their corruptive interaction can be a bit like having a street corner crackpot grasp your lapels, but it’s compulsive listening.” – Phil Sutcliffe, Mojo, pages 170-1.

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Released: January 23, 1981 Peak: 28 9 Sales (in millions): -- -- --

Tracks: 1. Clubland 2. Lovers Walk 3. You'll Never Be a Man 4. Pretty Words 5. Strict Time 6. Luxembourg 7. Watch Your Step 8. New Lace Sleeves 9. From a Whisper to a Scream 10. Different Finger 11. White Knuckles 12. Shot with His Own Gun 13. Fish 'n' Chip Paper 14. Big Sister's Clothes

Review: “Costello calls this ‘the most drug-influenced record of my career,’ and it’s also his most fragmented and jittery. The fifth album he’d made in less than four years, it drew heavily on songs written before his debut, with cryptic, nervous lyrics, and the Attractions twitching in rhythm.” – Douglas Wolk, Blender magazine (3/05), pp. 156-8.

Almost Blue

Released: October 23, 1981 Peak: 50 7 Sales (in millions): -- 0.1 0.1

Tracks: 1. "Why Don't You Love Me (Like You Used to Do)? 2. Sweet Dreams 3. Success 4. Hot Burrito #1 5. Tonight the Bottle Let Me Down 6. Brown to Blue 7. A Good Year for the Roses 8. Sittin' and Thinkin’ 9. Colour of the Blues 10. Too Far Gone 11. Honey Hush 12. How Much I Lied

Review: “The first of many genre experiments to come, recorded under the influence of a marriage (and plenty of booze) on the rocks. Costello took the Attractions to Nashville to drown his sorrows in other people’s country standards, produced by schmaltzmeister Billy Sherrill. But the overwrought results are mostly interesting as a gesture of defiance.” – Douglas Wolk, Blender magazine (3/05), pp. 156-8.

Imperial Bedroom

Released: July 2, 1982 Peak: 30 6 Sales (in millions): -- -- --

Tracks: 1. Beyond Belief 2. Tears Before Bedtime 3. Shabby Doll 4. The Long Honeymoon 5. Man Out of Time 6. Almost Blue 7. ...And in Every Home 8. The Loved Ones 9. Human Hands 10. Kid About It 11. Little Savage 12. Boy with a Problem 13. Pidgin English 14. You Little Fool 15. Town Cryer

Review: “Rather tought to understand thanks to adventurous orchestrations and hyperdense songwriting (aside from the dark, lucid ballad Almost Blue). Keep digging, though, and there are some gorgeous songs here; the Attractions get to show off their range and subtlety too.” – Douglas Wolk, Blender magazine (3/05), pp. 156-8.

“Costello’s new habit of writing mostly on piano must have been crucial – take his after-midnight Sinatra re-creation ‘Almost Blue’ or how a more typical piece, Boy with a Problem, ignores standard structure to follow where the melody leads. His sleevenote recalls he was struggling out of a ‘defeated and exhausted frame of mind to something more glorious’. So he hired an orchestra for some tracks, specifically seeking a touch of The Beatles’ range. Fresh and fluet compositions – Beyond Belief, Shabby Doll, The Long Honeymoon – hauled him out of the mire.” – Phil Sutcliffe, Mojo, pages 170-1.

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Punch the Clock

Released: August 5, 1983 Peak: 24 3 Sales (in millions): -- 0.1 0.1

Tracks: 1. Let Them All Talk 2. Everyday I Write the Book 3. The Greatest Thing 4. The Element Within Her 5. Love Went Mad 6. Shipbuilding 7. T.K.O. (Boxing Day) 8. Charm School 9. The Invisible Man 10. Mouth Almighty 11. King of Thieves 12. Pills and Soap 13. The World and His Wife

Review: “In a not-entirely-successful attempt to score pop hits, Costello slicked up his production and augmented the Attractions with a horn section. ‘There’s probably four real songs on that album,’ he later snorted, but it’s got a whimsy and effervescence that’s rare in his work, offset by two devastating songs about Margaret Thatcher-era British politics.” – Douglas Wolk, Blender magazine (3/05), pp. 156-8.

Goodbye Cruel World

Released: June 18, 1984 Peak: 35 10 Sales (in millions): -- 0.06 0.06

Tracks: 1. The Only Flame in Town 2. Home Truth 3. Room with No Number 4. Inch By Inch 5. Worthless Thing 6. Love Field 7. I Wanna Be Loved 8. The Comedians 9. Joe Porterhouse 10. Sour Milk-Cow Blues 11. The Great Unknown 12. The Deportees Club 13. Peace in Our Time

Review: “Costello has called this ‘our worst record,’ although it’s not that bad – ‘most dated’ is probably more accurate, thanks to its awful, synth-heavy production. His misery-wallowing is swaddled in reams of verbiage, although a handful of the songs are terrific, as the stripped-down versions on the reissue reveal.” – Douglas Wolk, Blender magazine (3/05), pp. 156-8.

King of America

Released: February 21, 1986 Peak: 39 11 Sales (in millions): -- 0.06 0.06

Tracks: 1. Brilliant Mistake 2. Lovable 3. Our Little Angel 4. Don't Let Me Be Misunderstood 5. Glitter Gulch 6. Indoor Fireworks 7. Little Palaces 8. I'll Wear It Proudly 9. American Without Tears 10. Eisenhower Blues 11. Poisoned Rose 12. The Big Light 13. Jack of All Parades 14. Suit of Lights 15. Sleep of The Just

Review: “Released under the name ‘The Costello Show’ and recorded mostly with American rockabilly and R&B musicians – including some who had backed up that other Elvis – this is an actual mature album: thoughtful, calm and introspective, with songs that are more deep than clever. The ragged-voiced Costello is not just playing tribute to the country (and Gram Parsons) records he loves; he’s absorbed them, and he’s building and English palace on their terrain.” – Douglas Wolk, Blender magazine (3/05), pp. 156-8.

“What Elvis means to Costello remains oddly unexplored, but here he took the allusion o teasing lengths by playing several tracks with Presley band members including guitarist James Burton. This turned out fine, viz blistering rock’n’roll satire Glitter Gulch and Lovable’s slapalong jive. But that year’s feud with The Attractions also seems to have freed his singing – given more time and space he finds new shades of mercy and kindness – and his writing – Brilliant Mistake, Indoor Fireworks and, above all, ‘40s-style torch song Poisoned Rose combine emotional insight and beauty as never before. He just couldn’t stop moving on.” – Phil Sutcliffe, Mojo, pages 170-1.

Blood and Chocolate

Released: September 15, 1986 Peak: 84 16 Sales (in millions): -- 0.1 0.1

Tracks: 1. Uncomplicated 2. I Hope You're Happy Now 3. Tokyo Storm Warning 4. Home Is Anywhere You Hang Your Head 5. I Want You 6. Honey, Are You Straight or Are You Blind? 7. Blue Chair 8. Battered Old Bird 9. Crimes of Paris 10. Poor Napoleon 11. Next Time Round

Review: “Freshly married to Pogues bassist Cait O’Riordan, Costello (crediting himself as ‘Napoleon Dynamite’!) made his fuck-you-and-goodbye album: blistering songs about sexual despair and disgust, played live to tape, with the Attractions almost blowing out their amps and Elvis spitting himself hoarse. Two tracks are over six minutes long, because the venom won’t stop spilling out.” – Douglas Wolk, Blender magazine (3/05), pp. 156-8.


Released: February 14, 1989 Peak: 32 5 Sales (in millions): 0.5 0.1 0.6

Tracks: 1. This Town 2. Let Him Dangle 3. Deep Dark Truthful Mirror 4. Veronica 5. God's Comic 6. Chewing Gum 7. Tramp the Dirt Down 8. Stalin Malone 9. Satellite 10. Pads, Paws and Claws 11. Baby Plays Around 12. Miss Macbeth 13. Any King's Shilling 14. Coal-Train Robberies 15. Last Boat Leaving

Review: “With lyrics drawing on British history and the travels of Costello’s grandparents, his most varied album also became his best-selling. It was recorded piecemeal with a cast of thousands, notably Paul McCartney who co-wrote Veronica, Costello’s biggest American hit.” – Douglas Wolk, Blender magazine (3/05), pp. 156-8.

See DMDB page.

Mighty Like a Rose

Released: May 14, 1991 Peak: 55 5 Sales (in millions): -- 0.06 0.06

Tracks: 1. The Other Side of Summer 2. Hurry Down Doomsday 3. How to Be Dumb 4. All Grown Up 5. Invasion Hit Parade 6. Harpies Bizarre 7. After the Fall 8. Georgie and Her Rival 9. So Like Candy 10. Interlude: Couldn't Call It Unexpected No. 2 11. Playboy to A Man 12. Sweet Pear 13. Broken 14. Couldn't Call It Unexpected No. 4

Review: “Costello grew his hair and beard for an Old Testament-prophet look, but this is basically Spike II: another assortment of styles, featuring a Beach Boys parody, malevolent character sketches, crazy guitar noise, and How to Be Dumb, a three-chord anvil dropped on Bruce Thomas in retaliation for his tell-all ‘novel,’ The Big Wheel.” – Douglas Wolk, Blender magazine (3/05), pp. 156-8.

The Juliet Letters (with the Brodsky Quartet)

Released: January 19, 1993 Peak: 125 18 Sales (in millions): -- -- --

Tracks: 1. Deliver Us 2. For Other Eyes 3. Swine 4. Expert Rites 5. Dead Letter 6. I Almost Had a Weakness 7. Why? 8. "Who Do You Think You Are? 9. Taking My Life in Your Hands 10. This Offer Is Unrepeatable 11. Dear Sweet Filthy World 12. The Letter Home 13. Jacksons, Monk and Rowe 14. This Sad Burlesque 15. Romeo's Séance 16. I Thought I'd Write to Juliet 17. Last Post 18. The First to Leave 19. Damnation's Cellar 20. The Birds Will Still Be Singing

Review: “An alternately elegant and stilted tie-and-tails affair featuring a string quartet with whom Costello cowrote many of the songs (loosely based on the idea of contemporary letters written to Shakespeare’s Juliet Capulet). ‘I’m a serious musician,’ he insisted. ‘I don’t have the technique that these people do, but I’m serious about what I’m doing.’” – Douglas Wolk, Blender magazine (3/05), pp. 156-8.

Brutal Youth

Released: March 8, 1994 Peak: 34 2 Sales (in millions): -- 0.06 0.06

Tracks: 1. Pony St. 2. Kinder Murder 3. 13 Steps Lead Down 4. This Is Hell 5. Clown Strike 6. You Tripped at Every Step 7. Still Too Soon to Know 8. 20% Amnesia 9. Sulky Girl 10. London's Brilliant Parade 11. My Science Fiction Twin 12. Rocking Horse Road 13. Just About Glad 14. All the Rage 15. Favourite Hour

Review: “Inspired to rock again by writing a ‘cartoon punk’ album for Brit heartthrob Wendy James in a weekend, Costello reconvened two-thirds of the Attractions and finally mended fences with Bruce Thomas for five songs. Some of his attempts to evoke his ‘70s vigor are too glib, but the band slips right back into its groove.” – Douglas Wolk, Blender magazine (3/05), pp. 156-8.

Kojak Variety

Released: May 9, 1995 Peak: 102 21 Sales (in millions): -- -- --

Tracks: 1. Strange 2. Hidden Charms 3. Remove This Doubt 4. I Threw It All Away 5. Leave My Kitten Alone 6. Everybody's Crying Mercy 7. I've Been Wrong Before 8. Bama Lama Bama Loo 9. Must You Throw Dirt in My Face? 10. Pouring Water on a Drowning Man 11. The Very Thought of You 12. Payday 13. Please Stay 14. Running Out of Fools 15. Days

Review: “Recorded in 1990 (with the Rude 5, EC’s touring band at the time) but unreleased for five years, this casual set of obscure covers is fun, even if he can’t quite pull off his Little Richard impression. The reissue adds a kick-ass set of demos for country singer George Jones.” – Douglas Wolk, Blender magazine (3/05), pp. 156-8.

All This Useless Beauty

Released: May 14, 1996 Peak: 53 28 Sales (in millions): -- -- --

Tracks: 1. The Other End of the Telescope 2. Little Atoms 3. All This Useless Beauty 4. Complicated Shadows 5. Why Can't A Man Stand Alone? 6. Distorted Angel 7. Shallow Grave 8. Poor Fractured Atlas 9. Starting To Come To Me 10. You Bowed Down 11. It's Time 12. I Want to Vanish

Review: “The Attractions’ final bow. There are flashes of their old fire, but also of weariness. The repertoire is mostly autumnal, regretful songs Costello wrote for other singers, with lyrics in the voices of characters questioning their lives.” – Douglas Wolk, Blender magazine (3/05), pp. 156-8.

Painted from Memory (with Burt Bacharach)

Released: September 29, 1998 Peak: 78 32 Sales (in millions): -- 0.06 0.06

Tracks: 1. In the Darkest Place 2. Toledo 3. I Still Have That Other Girl 3. This House Is Empty Now 4. Tears at the Birthday Party 5. Such Unlikely Lovers 6. My Thief 7. The Long Division 8. Painted from Memory 9. The Sweetest Punch 10. What's Her Name Today? 11. God Give Me Strength

Review: “Burt Bacharach and Costello cowrote a song for the 1996 movie Grace of My Heart, which led to this creamy album of sophisticated easy-listening. The acerbic Elvis gives Bacharach more solemn lyrics than his ‘60s hits had, although he’s no Dionne Warwick.” – Douglas Wolk, Blender magazine (3/05), pp. 156-8.

“No doubt which way the ‘influence’ flowed, since every bar of creamy melancholia declares Bacharach’s presence. Costello was the explorer, he wanted the partnership and the ‘60s orchestrations’ lush restraint. He wanted to fin his inner Dusty. Precise, spacious melodies demand he edit his stories, pare his language, honour the discipline of silky syncopated piano chords. Confined-liberated, he sings out simple lines like ‘I still have that other girl in my head’ or ‘Still I can’t believe this is happening’. Not rock’n’roll, but heart and soul.” – Phil Sutcliffe, Mojo, pages 170-1.

For the Stars (with Annie Sofie von Otter)

Released: April 10, 2001 Peak: -- 67 Sales (in millions): -- -- --

Tracks: 1. No Wonder 2. Baby Plays Around 3. Go Leave 4. Rope 5. Don't Talk (Put Your Head on My Shoulder) 6. Broken Bicycles/Junk 7. The Other Woman 8. Like An Angel Passing Through My Room 9. Green Song 10. April After All 11. You Still Believe in Me 12. I Want to Vanish 13. For No One 14. Shamed Into Love 15. Just a Curio 16. This House Is Empty Now 17. Take It With Me 18. For the Stars

Review: “A collaboration with Swedish opera singer Anne Sofie von Otter, for which Costello wrote a few songs, selected some odd covers (the Beach Boys, ABBA, Tom Waits) and poked his scruffy voice into the mix. Nicely arranged, but the two singers are barely on the same planet.” – Douglas Wolk, Blender magazine (3/05), pp. 156-8.

When I Was Cruel

Released: April 23, 2002 Peak: 20 17 Sales (in millions): -- 0.06 0.06

Tracks: 1. 45 2. Spooky Girlfriend 3. Tear Off Your Own Head (It's a Doll Revolution) 4. When I Was Cruel No. 2 5. Soul for Hire 6. 15 Petals 7. Tart 8. Dust 2... 9. Dissolve 10. Alibi 11. ...Dust 12. Daddy Can I Turn This? 13. Little Blue Window 14. Episode of Blonde 15. Radio Silence

Review: “Costello’s first album of new rock songs in eight years is bilious and guitar-heavy, incorporating bright ideas from his experimental sojourns (like the title track’s creepy sample) and pissy lyrics about aging and youngsters. Returning prodigals Pete Thomas and Steve Nieve jockey for position in the mix.” – Douglas Wolk, Blender magazine (3/05), pp. 156-8.

“After years of intriguing collaborations, genre experiments and learning new skills, suddenly a whole lifetime of what inspired Costello erupted into visceral rock ‘n’ roll again. He applied his latest passions – hip hop’s sleek technologies and Ethiopian pop’s coarse earthiness – to some of his best melodies and his torrential narrative imaginings fortified by relentlessly hard rhythm tracks to produce such please-don’t-stop epics as When I Was Cruel No. 2, Alibi, Dust and Episode of Blonde. Costello was approaching his fifties with a level of vinegar in the blood comparable only to Tom Waits or Lucinda Williams. Then he got even better.” – Phil Sutcliffe, Mojo, pages 170-1.


Released: September 23, 2003 Peak: 57 44 Sales (in millions): -- -- --

Tracks: 1. You Left Me in the Dark 2. Someone Took the Words Away 3. When Did I Stop Dreaming? 4. You Turned to Me 5. Fallen 6. When It Sings 7. Still 8. Let Me Tell You About Her 9. Can You Be True? 10. When Green Eyes Turn Blue 11. I'm in the Mood Again

Review: “To celebrate his romance with jazz singer Diana Krall (they married in December 2003), Costello wrote his dullest-ever set of original songs: dreary piano ballads, smoothly sung, with a tasteful orchestra on a few tracks. The standards he has written are a lot livelier.” – Douglas Wolk, Blender magazine (3/05), pp. 156-8.

“Costello fulfilled his Sinatra/Bacharach (and maybe Weill) dream with the cast-iron slowest album of his career. Piano chords adrift in time, the barstool singer romancing or lamenting from past bust-up to present love and back – and in the corner an orchestra which, post Il Sogno, he can arrange and conduct. A spicily bracing job he makes of it too, with the consequent musical formalities acting as Lomotil to his excessive tendencies, just as they had on Painted from Memory. In place of agitation and agro, he delivers measured reflection, quiet passion. North is a triumph of the heartfelt musicianliness he always sought.” – Phil Sutcliffe, Mojo, pages 170-1.

Il Sogno

Released: September 21, 2004 Peak: -- -- Sales (in millions): -- -- --

Tracks: 1. Prelude 2. Overture 3. Puck 1 Act One: 4. The Court 5. The State of Affairs 6. Hermia and Lysander 7. The Jealousy of Helena 8. Worker's Playtime Act Two: 9. Oberon and Titania 10. The Conspiracy of Oberon and Puck 11. Slumber 12. Puck 2 13. The Identity Parade 14. The Face of Bottom 15. The Spark of Love 16. Tormentress 17. Oberon Humbled 18. Twisted - Entangled - Transform and Exchange 19. The Fairy and the Ass 20. Sleep 21. Bottom Awakes 22. Lovers Arise Act Three: 23. The Play 24. The Wedding

Review: “An orchestral piece, written as the score for a ballet based on Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream. Costello clearly has a strong grasp of tone and color; his use of the full orchestra (plus a jazz drummer) is totally competent. And when they start handing out awards for competence, he’ll be the first person called.” – Douglas Wolk, Blender magazine (3/05), pp. 156-8.

The Delivery Man

Released: September 21, 2004 Peak: 40 73 Sales (in millions): -- -- --

Tracks: 1. Button My Lip 2. Country Darkness 3. There's A Story in Your Voice 4. Either Side of the Same Town 5. Bedlam 6. The Delivery Man 7. Monkey to Man 8. Nothing Clings Like Ivy 9. The Name of This Thing Is Not Love 10. Heart Shaped Bruise 11. She's Pulling Out the Pin 12. Needle Time 13. The Judgement 14. The Scarlet Tide

Review: “Recorded in Oxford, Mississippi, this concept-album-that-ditched-its-concept is informal, clattering, funny and rowdy as hell. Costello has rarely sung this roughly or freely (although Lucinda Williams steals the show with her boozy cameo), and everyone sounds as if they’re having a blast.” – Douglas Wolk, Blender magazine (3/05), pp. 156-8.

“Twenty-eight years in, the latest is the best. That’s songwriting and performance both. Why not, given such unflagging ambition to move and improve? Immersed in steamy Deep South imaginings, Costello switchbacks between heartache ballads and voodoo rockers. The Imposters sweat their souls – pianist Steve Nieve at a lifetime peak – and Costello sings with more range, depth and heart than ever before. In the crunching Button My Lip, he hollers ‘I’ve seen those clowns vacant and insolent…I am the mighty and magnificent’; in character or not, that’s Costello in imperial mid-life.” – Phil Sutcliffe, Mojo, pages 170-1.

The River in Reverse (with Allen Toussaint)

Released: June 6, 2006 Peak: 103 97 Sales (in millions): -- -- --

Tracks: 1. On Your Way Down 2. Nearer to You 3. Tears, Tears and More Tears 4. The Sharpest Thorn 5. Who’s Gonna Help Brother Get Further? 6. The River in Reverse 7. Freedom for the Stallion 8. Broken Promise Land 9. Ascension Day 10. International Echo 11. All These Things 12. Wonder Woman 13. Six-Fingered Man 14. The Greatest Love 15. Where Is The Love

Review: “.” – Douglas Wolk, Blender magazine (3/05), pp. 156-8.


Released: April 22, 2008 Peak: 59 112 Sales (in millions): -- -- --

Tracks: 1. No Hiding Place 2. American Gangster Time 3. Turpentine 4. Harry Worth 5. Drum and Bone 6. Flutter and Wow 7. Stella Hurt 8. Mr. Feathers 9. My Three Sons 10. Song with Rose 11. Pardon Me Madam, My Name Is Eve 12. Go Away

Review: “Released in 2008 by Elvis Costello and the Imposters. The album also features collaborations with Rilo Kiley frontwoman Jenny Lewis. The album title refers to Momofuku Ando, the inventor of instant ramen noodles, and the speed at which the album was conceived and created.” – Wikipedia

Secret, Profane & Sugarcane

Released: June 9, 2009 Peak: 13 71 Sales (in millions): -- -- --

Tracks: 1. Down Among the Wines and Spirits 2. Complicated Shadows 3. I Felt the Chill 4. My All Time Doll 5. Hidden Shame 6. She Handed Me a Mirror 7. I Dreamed of My Old Lover 8. How Deep Is the Red 9. She Was No Good 10. Sulphur to Sugarcane 11. Red Cotton 12. The Crooked Line 13. Changing Partners 14. Femme Fatale * 15. What Lewis Did Last *

* vinyl bonus tracks

Review: “Recorded in Nashville with American songwriter and producer T Bone Burnett…The album features bluegrass, Americana and country music along with Costello’s familiar garrulous lyrics…The artwork was designed by comic strip artist Tony Millionaire…Costello returned to an acoustic band set-up for the first time since 1986’s King of America album. Recorded in Nashville, Tennessee in three days…Released on Starbucks’ Hear Music label.” – Wikipedia

National Ransom

Released: October 25, 2010 Peak: 39 71 Sales (in millions): -- -- --

Tracks: 1. National Ransom 2. Jimmie Standing in the Rain 3. Stations of the Cross 4. A Slow Drag With Josephine 5. Five Small Words 6. Church Underground 7. You Hung the Moon 8. Bullets for the New-Born King 9. I Lost You 10. Dr. Watson, I Presume 11. One Bell Ringing 12. The Spell That You Cast 13. That’s Not the Part of Him You're Leaving 14. My Lovely Jezebel 15. All These Strangers 16. A Voice in the Dark 17. I Hope *

* Japanese CD only

Review: “Recorded in Nashville and Los Angeles with American songwriter and producer T-Bone Burnett…Featured musicians include Costello’s recent backing bands The Imposters and The Sugarcanes and guest appearances by Vince Gill, Marc Ribot, Buddy Miller, and Leon Russell.” – Wikipedia

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This page last updated May 9, 2011.