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Volume 70, Issue 117, Tuesday, March 29, 2005

Life & Arts

Get a little closer with Costello

Album allows artist to show fans songs that continue to inspire him

By Dusti Rhodes
The Daily Cougar

At some point, many music lovers may find themselves fixated on one particular artist or handful of artists. Whatever their reason, be it music history or just the meaning of the songs to the individual, there will come a point when they realize that those they adore may also have a favorites list of their own. Although some may see no point in ever exploring their favorite artist's influences, others may want to know what created the music that inspires or just entertains them.

Hear Music, a subsidiary of Universal, has released a series of Artist's Choice albums that give musicians like The Rolling Stones, Ray Charles and Yo-Yo Ma a chance to share a collection of tunes that inspired the music they create. This month Elvis Costello put his choices to disc.

For many, his list was not a big surprise considering Vanity Fair published Costello's Top 500 records of all time in November of 2001. But the real treat for those fans is the liner notes in which Costello explains the reasons behind his choices.

Elvis Costello gave fans a look into the music that his inspired his own work as part of Hear Music's Artist Choice series. Among Costello's choices were Louis Armstrong, Aretha Franklin, George Jones, The Band and Rilo Kiley.
Photo courtesy of Universal Music

But regardless of his words -- his selections speak volumes about his career and musical decisions.

It might be hard for less informed fans to see how a man who rose to fame on a punk rock ticket could list country, jazz and blues songs for a majority of his influences and favorites. But a look back at Costello's discography would be evidence enough of the validity of his choices.

Costello's 1980 "Get Happy" was a clear demonstration of his love of '60s soul music, which make his choices of Aretha Franklin's "Do Right Woman, Do Right Man" and Dusty Springfield's "I Don't Want to Hear it Anymore" understandable. The backing vocals on both these tracks allude to Costello's talent for creating complementary backing vocals for his songs.

There is an undeniable country influence on almost every Costello record, so choices like George Jones' "Mr. Fool" and Lucinda Williams' "Over Time" give fans a chance to see his picks of old and new music.

A surprising pick was Rilo Kiley's "Does He Love You?" a choice that Costello made because he said he wanted to include a recent record. Costello has a love of female vocals, which is evident on this album, as women perform almost half of the picks. Diana Krall, Costello's wife, is featured among the tracks with her cover of his song from Imperial Bedroom, "Almost Blue."

The album begins with choices that came from Costello's childhood with songs by Louis Armstrong, Muddy Waters and Clifford Brown. Costello also pays homage to the first person he ever wrote songs with, Nick Lowe. 

The entire collection is a great opportunity for fans to get an inside look at the music behind the man without any cheesy VH1 specials.

Artist's Choice: Elvis Costello

Hear Music/Universal

Verdict: Get to know the man behind the glasses.

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