January 19, 2009 by MK
Turns out, Elvis Costello is not just an awesome singer-songwriter-rock-and-roller, he’s the James Lipton of music! Well, if James Lipton didn’t edit out all the good parts of Inside the Actor’s Studio, that is. With Spectacle, Costello shows how in-depth one can get when the interviewer is a peer and not a journalist. The guests are much more apt to give up the goods when they trust the taste and esteem of the one asking the questions. Case studies include, Lou Reed [aka Mr. Boring], James Taylor [aka Dr. Dull] and Tony Bennett [aka Professor Banal]. Somehow, Elvis makes three men who I’ve never seen give a good interview seem like Truman Capote.
Costello comes at the job with a work ethic that imbues Spectacle with humility. For a guy accused of being an egomaniac in his day, it’s not about him. It’s about the music. And he also rings out some extraordinary performances when the talking is done.
Hey, speaking of music, let’s list it up!
TOP 5 ELVIS COSTELLO ALBUMS
1. Get Happy!! 
A somewhat overlooked album of ambition, sprawling influence and raw energy. 20 soul songs that bustle through in punk vitality. Can be seen as a companion piece of sorts to The Clash’s “London Calling.” Best Song: King Horse
2. Armed Forces 
In this case, judge the album by its cover — love will stampede you. The most “New Wave” an Elvis record gets. Also showcases why Costello is a clever lyricist by somehow making a non-pretentious song (Oliver’s Army) out of the British invasion of of Ireland in 1649. Best Song: Green Shirt
3. This Year’s Model 
Really the first time the Elvis we know and love appears for the full length of an album. Plus, you get one of the essential backing bands at the top of their game, The Attractions. Listen to drummer Pete Thomas, bassist Bruce Thomas and keyboard/organ man Steve Nieve run circles around each other on the album’s Best Song: (I Don’t Want to Go to) Chelsea.
4. Trust 
Declan wraps up an unstoppable 4-year string of albums by foreshadowing the eclectic career that was to follow for the foreseeable future. It would be 20 years before we were to get him at the top of his game again. Best Song: New Lace Sleeves
5. When I Was Cruel 
Let there be rock… again. After years of detours into classical, jazz and covers, Elvis gets back to the electric guitar. Proves he’s just as vital as he was in 1977. Best Song: My Little Blue Window