"In time we can turn these obsessions into careers"MLAR20yrs

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wordnat
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Re: "In time we can turn these obsessions into careers"MLAR2

Postby wordnat » Wed Mar 16, 2011 5:23 pm

MLAR is just wrong on every level: weak songs, overwrought production, bad hair, weird beard, stupid hat. And then there's "Broken" -- grounds for divorce right there. See ya, Cait -- don't let that door hit you in the ass.... :twisted:

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Re: "In time we can turn these obsessions into careers"MLAR2

Postby verbal gymnastics » Wed Mar 16, 2011 6:19 pm

Up until you mentioned "Broken" I thought you were talking about King of America :lol: :lol: :lol:
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Re: "In time we can turn these obsessions into careers"MLAR2

Postby Otis Westinghouse » Wed Mar 16, 2011 7:07 pm

Christopher Sjoholm wrote:Alex, that is an interesting point you make regarding the various strong end songs to several key EC records. I would add one more-"Peace, Love and Understanding" for Armed Forces.

I would take that one away given that Armed Forces actually ends with 'Two Little Hitlers'. (I'm sure that Platypus will get over the sorrows of not seeing Elvis in Buenos Aires by backing me up on this point.)

MLAR occupies a special place in my life. Driving around Spain in 1991 with my future wife listening to 'After The Fall' et al...

I like your summaries there, Poor D. 'Candy' is a particular fave, but those good moments are all great ones.

Only 'Broken', as acknowledged, is a diabolical embarrassment. It came up on shuffle a while back, well I didn't know which way to look. I'm surprised Elvis hasn't it deleted somehow as it was clearly only included as a way to keep the missus (at the time) sweet.

I missed him play Las Ventas bullring in Madrid on July 26 that year as a friend had the impertinence to get married that day. He also played a bullring in Asturias a few days after:
http://www.elviscostello.info/wiki/inde ... raphy_1991

Love that live clip of 'Candy'. T-Bone Wolk was great and G E Smith doing nice guitar work.
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Re: "In time we can turn these obsessions into careers"MLAR2

Postby the_platypus » Wed Mar 16, 2011 7:14 pm

Otis Westinghouse wrote:I would take that one away given that Armed Forces actually ends with 'Two Little Hitlers'. (I'm sure that Platypus will get over the sorrows of not seeing Elvis in Buenos Aires by backing me up on this point.)


NO HE WILL NOT




(get over the sorrow, that is)

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Re: "In time we can turn these obsessions into careers"MLAR2

Postby cwr » Wed Mar 16, 2011 7:40 pm

W/r/t The Beard and its connection to MLAR negativity-- I specifically said that I didn't think it made a bit of difference within the diehard EC fan community, many of whom loathe MLAR purely for musical reasons. What I said was that in a more general sense, I think the image change sabotaged the album with the larger listenership and higher profile he gained with the success of "Veronica."

If he had recorded MLAR exactly the same way-- same songs, same players, same Mitchell Froom production-- but looked like the Buddy Holly version of Costello that had been nominated for an MTV music video award just two years earlier, I think it wouldn't have acquired quite the reputation that it has as one of the low points of Costello's discography. Indeed, I think it's actually take the eclecticism of SPIKE and veers back closer in the direction of the early "angry" Elvis.

But the EC who shows up on SNL is unrecognizable to the casual fan. Indeed, I wasn't a Costello fan back then-- but I had liked the song "Veronica"-- and I remember seeing him on SNL and being completely weirded out that this was the same guy, thinking he must have gone crazy or something.

He gets his own "MTV Unplugged" and he uses it as an opportunity to perform a handful of MLAR tracks alongside covers from the wouldn't-be-released-for-4-more-years Kojak Variety, then sneaks in a dig at MTV for airing commercials for the US Army. Instead of getting the full hour, he gets cut down to 30 minutes.

This is a guy who is clearly not looking to repeat the success of "Veronica" and I think The Beard is as clear a case of self-sabotage as (almost) anything he's done. And to a certain extent, it worked. I'll bet he's still kind of proud of it-- it was a weird thing to do, and DOES have an echo in Joaquin Phoenix's recent performance art. But I'll bet at least part of him looks back and wishes that he'd gone at MLAR without the costume change-- the guy who less than a decade later would be flogging "She" on any UK tv show that would have him, in the hope that he'd get his first #1 chart placement.

As for why no one freaked out about the beard on the cover of King Of America, I'd say: that album didn't do well, and was quickly followed up by B&C with EC in "classic" mode. MLAR followed one of his biggest successes on the US charts, and was his second album for Warner Bros, whereas KOA was put out as his relationship with Columbia records was losing steam. The MLAR image change was a much bigger deal, and he really went for it and committed hard. So hard that people now refer to "The Beard Years", when it was only really one year and one record.

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Re: "In time we can turn these obsessions into careers"MLAR2

Postby wardo68 » Wed Mar 16, 2011 11:08 pm

If I recall, and I may be wrong, EC got the MTV Unplugged show because Jane's Addiction bailed. And he was already halfway through his own tour, and he was already hoarse.

A couple of weeks later I saw him in the same amphitheater that was full for the Spike tour two years earlier, only this time it was dark and muggy when he went onstage, and he filled the middle of the set with a bunch of songs nobody recognized, but would be familiar once Kojak Variety emerged.

Flash back a couple of months earlier, and I was trying to convince a bar full of people that the man on the muted television overhead tuned to Saturday Night Live really was Elvis Costello, and nobody believed me.

In those days he was determined to do his own thing, make his music on his own terms, and not rely on an image to sell it. After the relative success of Spike, he was able to do that -- to an extent. After all, even if his label didn't love him as much as they did in 1989, they still bankrolled a chamber music collection two years later.

What took him another twenty years to learn was that if he just makes music, his fans will follow. That he resents those fans for following him is his own problem.

As for "Broken", I recall a few comparisons to the Sinead O'Connor school of performance in those days... take a basic melody over one chord, a la "She Moved Through The Fair", and put a crazy accompaniment to it.

I listened to MLAR on constant repeat (thanks, auto-reverse cassette players!) all through the year to the end of 1991 (when Achtung Baby came out and replaced it) so when I hear it today, I remember the route I was driving. It was a lot more important at the time, but it's still good today.

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Re: "In time we can turn these obsessions into careers"MLAR2

Postby Jack of All Parades » Thu Mar 17, 2011 5:39 am

Otis, good to hear from you. I would argue for putting WSFAPLU back into Alex's point. The American version of AF has always had that song as the last one, whether unlisted as on the original pressing[like "Her Majesty" on Abbey Road for so many years] or officially as on the Rhino re-releases.

Platypus, I am truly sorry you do not get to see your hero. Even if I had the attributed karma power to cause him to pull out of his south of the equator tour, I would never punish such a committed fan as yourself. He does seem to have a history of backing out of shows down there. I truly hope he lives up to his promise to legitimately making an effort, and keeping true to it, to playing down there in the future so that you do not have to spend a larger fortune to see 'your musical hero' off the South American continent.
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Re: "In time we can turn these obsessions into careers"MLAR2

Postby cwr » Thu Mar 17, 2011 12:04 pm

If I recall, and I may be wrong, EC got the MTV Unplugged show because Jane's Addiction bailed. And he was already halfway through his own tour, and he was already hoarse.


No, they almost lost EC because Jane's Addiction bailed. They tended to tape several shows in a session, and that day they were scheduled to do both Costello and JA.

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Re: "In time we can turn these obsessions into careers"MLAR2

Postby alexv » Thu Mar 17, 2011 12:36 pm

Christopher, I found your post on PFM, but I can't seem to be able to revive it from my computer, so I will give you my take on that record here, with apologies to those talking about MLAR. Just look away.

I love this record. As I go back on this old thread it’s nice to see some very nice lines from some of our old posters. Check out Rope on the song you cite, This House is Empty Now. You see self-castigation (I don’t), and Rope focused on some lines that would be missed unless you had experienced “the haunting absence of a freshly vacated lover”. See, that’s nice. And one of my favorite old posters, and fellow J Timberlake admirer, SoLikeCandy found the same song “empowering” during troubled times.

Anyway, like you, I don’t skip a song on this record, and completely overlook some of the “cheesy” stuff. But I have a different take. Not saying you wrong and I right. Remember, this is all subjective. I know that was unnecessary since you are one of the reasonable posters (our Board is so reasonable these days: nice), but it's almost habit.

I see it more in line with North, when it comes to the lyrics. In North you get a shift in songs about a lost love and a new love. In PFM you get a mix of songs: some are clearly laments, but others, like Such Unlikely Lovers, for example, are almost giddy love songs. My Thief, the song that follows it, also seems to me to be about the new love, that has him possessed. And Painted from Memory seems again to me to be a song of celebration.

The sad songs, the break-up songs, do evoke Shoot out the Lightsk, but without the all-out commitment. Funny how in In the Darkest Place he comes back again and again to the line “I shut out the lights”. For a musical encyclopedia like EC, that could not have been unintentional. But I would not overestimate the comparison. The record is not as self-lacerating as you argue. I just don’t think EC has it in him to be as raw as you have to be to do something like what RThompson and Linda did.

This House is Empty Now to me is not self-castigating at all, but as others pointed out is a song of deep loss, a cry in the darkness. The protagonist is not beating himself up, he’s asking how’s he’s supposed to go on alone. It’s really a lament and if anything suffers from self-pity. It’s the same theme in In the Darkest Place: it’s a pleading song by a heart-broken protagonist, with no self censuring at all. He’s not admitting any fault, just asking her to come back. Tears at the Birthday Party is interesting in this regard. The protagonist does admit fault, but then it’s back to pleading. He’s not going to love you like I do; why are you sharing your cake with him, unwrapping presents that I should have sent you. I still adore you; my heart aches. You just wait, one day he’ll let you down.

I have a different take on another song we both like: Toledo. I do see that song as mainly about betrayal and deceit. The protagonist has been unfaithful and knows that if he tries to lie he will not get away with it. She will spot the lie. Something in his tone will betray him. And that leads to the famous refrain. I’ve never been too comfortable with it, but it seems to me, and this like all the rest here, is just conjecture, that he’s trying to convince himself that maybe if he tries to lie it will work since people in the real Toledo have no clue that Toledo, Ohio is crap (no offense to America’s Toledo; EC has no clue) and the Ohio folks have no clue about Spanish citadel towns. The ending with Florence, Alabama (he could have used Florence, South Carolina too) continues the same conceit, to less effect. Even here, he reaches for a possible out.

So, I don’t come away with the sense that this great record is all about an inner dialogue of pain and remorse. It combines, like North, songs of despair, apparently related to the marriage issues with Cait (but who knows), with songs of love. And even in the despair songs, where the protagonist lets on to some responsibility, he never commits fully. There is always an excuse or an out.

Back to MLAR: PD, spot on with your comments on those songs. The only one I can't go along with is Harpies, though. Just me. One of the songs I skip. Never got it.

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Re: "In time we can turn these obsessions into careers"MLAR2

Postby Poor Deportee » Thu Mar 17, 2011 3:35 pm

I like cwr's remarks on The Beard. To me there can be no question that Elvis has a consistent pattern of career self-sabotage - which makes his recurring bitterness at his commercial marginalization all the sillier. It's a funny thing, though...part of the FUN of popular music is, or used to be, the mutating personae adopted by pop performers. The Beatles went within 2-3 years from being loveable besuited mop-tops to being Sgt. Pepper and people thought it was great. David Bowie made a career out of shape-shifting, each new sartorial statement being swallowed up by his fan-base as the Latest Thing (a trick since emulated by lesser talents like Madonna and Lady Gaga). U2 swung from earnest lefty rockers to postmodern Achtung Baby Eurotrash and everyone loved it. It's true that some performers have been met with hysteria, as when Dylan went from folkie to fey counter-cultural wildman, then to farmer (!); but for the most part, this sort of shape-shifting has been one of pop's more engaging side-show traditions.

The Beard represented EC's most dramatic foray into image transmutation. The Mad Russian was a delightfully bizarre avatar, and a self-projection uniquely suited to the demented music he was making. And perhaps it says something about the dullness of contemporary pop audiences that so few seemed willing to roll with it.
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Re: "In time we can turn these obsessions into careers"MLAR2

Postby Jack of All Parades » Fri Mar 18, 2011 4:42 pm

Have to agree with PD about the past pleasures of morphing from album to album in appearance by favorite pop stars as caught in photos and album covers. Always have enjoyed seeing what might come next. As PD adroitly points out EC has been rather tame in this, limited to the ever evolving style of spectacles or, of late, hats. That period in the early 90's as he became increasingly hirsute and his girth grew equally never bothered me but didn't make me long for more of the same[remember when Lennon went for the full Christ look and started dressing in Black- that had some style to it, EC lacked it in this period]. These days, outside of revolving head cover, little to get excited about with him although I now note from the Douglas tour journals his surprising foot wear 'covetousness' . Who knew he had it in him to possibly be an 'Imelda' of current Pop stars? With the receding hair and gaunt face, were he to revisit the "mad Russian" look of MLAR, he might very well look like this noted Russian:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Dostoevskij_1872.jpg

PS- PD check your PM have an offer for you.
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Re: "In time we can turn these obsessions into careers"MLAR2

Postby sulky lad » Fri Mar 18, 2011 5:08 pm

Elvis should grow the beard and call his next album (sic) Crime And Punishment ! :oops:

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Re: "In time we can turn these obsessions into careers"MLAR2

Postby cwr » Sat Mar 19, 2011 9:41 am

I've always thought that EC should attempt a less "wild" beard look. Maintain his classic Buddy Holly specs and grow out a nice, well-trimmed beard. But he seems to like changing his looks in a way that is more offbeat, like his recent flirtation with having a mustache. It's almost like he wants to affect "looks" the way an oddball character actor would.

Back to MLAR: another minority opinion, I assume, is that "George And Her Rival" is a terrific pop song with a catchy melody and an intriguing lyric. But even EC doesn't like it, claiming that he and Froom "fucked up" the arrangement and that it should have been slower and more tragic. I disagree. I think it's great the way it is.

He sat up with his address book
trying to think what mood he's in
His finger traced past Georgie's name
to someone who needed less persuading
He didn't hear through her disguise
He didn't leave her in a rush
Just like the promise that he left on her machine
That almost made her blush
The radio plays a lover's symphony
"The number you have dialed has been re-directed"
Now she puts him on the speaker-phone
Whenever she has company

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Re: "In time we can turn these obsessions into careers"MLAR2

Postby alexv » Sat Mar 19, 2011 10:58 am

I like Georgie too, CWR. Who cares what EC thinks? Back in the mid 80s, everytime he released a record he would do an extensive interview with Musician magazine. It was the same drill: upon album release he would go on and on about the new record, the new songs, and then disparage the preceeding record. I can't remember EC ever admitting to liking any of his records, to the extent of being as satisfied with them as the critics, except the record he had just released. I think this stopped once he realized the new records would not be the massive hits he hoped them to be. MLAR was probably the last record he treated this way. These days, and for some time now, his promotion of the new stuff doesn't include the bashing of the previous record. Or at least that's how it seems to me.

I think Georgie is a great EC pop song. Could the production be better? Maybe, but it's good enough. I feel the same way about Candy and Summer. Each is a terrific pop tune.

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Re: "In time we can turn these obsessions into careers"MLAR2

Postby sulky lad » Sat Mar 19, 2011 2:34 pm

alexv says
I think Georgie is a great EC pop song. Could the production be better? Maybe, but it's good enough. I feel the same way about Candy and Summer. Each is a terrific pop tune.

I can't quite work out why I don't play this more often when I really love it when I play it. It seemed a much more approachable album than "Spike" - which is my particular bete noir in the Costello canon and there are some lovely melodies on MLAR which I don't think ever get approached by Spike. One of my concerns about MLAR, is that I bought it at a traumatic time in my life and so many lines are associated with disturbing images, which I won't elaborate on except to say that I sang Sweet Pear a lot when I played it and the words were misinterpreted more than I could possibly have imagined. Broken lacks Costello's normal brutish editing but it's a whole lot better than anything Yoko has ever done isn't it ? There are several other really strong songs to compensate from Broken, and the run of Dumb to Candy is as strong as any sequence from GH for example.
To take a slightly different line, I wonder how much Elvis was miffed about failing to get The Attractions back to play on this and I think Harpies Bizarre with Steve on harpsichord and Bruce doing a fade a la Shabby Doll would have elevated into a Costello classic for sure.Whether they'd have attempted How To Be Dumb is debatable meanwhile, Elvis' imagery is as strong on this album as on almost everything up to NR,imho. Come to think of it, the more I consider this album, the more I love it - and it's been a great Saturday as I found I did have a vinyl copy of Juliet letters - I might even listen to that after one more spin of MLAR!

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Re: "In time we can turn these obsessions into careers"MLAR2

Postby cwr » Sun Mar 20, 2011 9:05 am

"Just Another Mystery" is one of the greatest fully-formed outtakes EC ever wrote and recorded. There are plenty of examples of EC leaving off a great song and putting it out as a b-side, but JAM is one of the rare times when such an excellent track didn't see the light of day until a CD reissue bonus disc. How this one didn't make it on to, say, the singles for "The Other Side Of Summer" or "So Like Candy" is beyond me.

And yet, unlike some of the great outtakes (like "Almost Ideal Eyes") that one might wish had made the album, MLAR is so perfectly sequenced that it's hard for me to imagine where JAM would fit in. It's too big and grand a track to be anywhere near the album's perfect opening and closing track, and it doesn't comfortably fit anywhere in between. It would disturb the songs around it. And yet, it is such a perfect MLAR track. It belongs NEAR the album. It's a shame that it has only been heard by the minority of fans who happened to buy the now-out-of-print Rhino edition.

On another topic, "Invasion Hit Parade" remains as timely as ever. I'm surprised that this hasn't been more regularly featured in concerts over the last decade, and it would be a shame if it didn't make the Spinning Songbook.

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Re: "In time we can turn these obsessions into careers"MLAR2

Postby Jack of All Parades » Sun Mar 20, 2011 9:26 am

CWR- have to agree on "Just Another Mystery"- as I said earlier on this thread have always found that song extraordinary. Unlike you though would have gladly fit it into the album anywhere between the two memorable bookend tracks. Hell he could have just made it a four or five track ep and I would have been ecstatic. It would be a wonderful song to have on his upcoming wheel. In fact I would suggest a wheel that solely contains the strong outtakes that never made it to albums such as JAM or AIE. That would be a fun show and would cause me to open up the wallet.

Alex- thought of another to add to your upbeat enders of strong records- "I'm In The Mood Again" from North A definite candidate for the upbeat enders club!
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Re: "In time we can turn these obsessions into careers"MLAR2

Postby History History » Sun Mar 20, 2011 12:13 pm

Broken lacks Costello's normal brutish editing but it's a whole lot better than anything Yoko has ever done isn't it ?

Hi Sulky Lad,
Don't quite get the random Yoko reference.
Walking On Thin Ice - better than Broken IMO

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Re: "In time we can turn these obsessions into careers"MLAR2

Postby cwr » Mon Mar 21, 2011 11:07 am

I know that it's mostly just because people hate "Broken" as a SONG with a particular venom, but it always surprises me that "Baby Plays Around" doesn't come in for any of that scorn.

Maybe it's because people either A) like it as a song or B) don't MIND it as a song, while they LOATHE "Broken", but "Broken" is just a mood piece tucked away near the end of MLAR, while "Baby Plays Around" was EC's FOLLOW-UP SINGLE TO "VERONICA."

One of this biggest chart successes of his career, and Costello chose to follow up its release with "Baby Plays Around," a song that had absolutely ZERO chance of being even a modest hit single. And you just know that it was purely a Costello choice-- there's no way anyone at Warner Bros was pushing for that song to be a single, it was purely an indulgence on Costello's part.

So while "Broken" is just about as deep a cut as you can find in EC's catalog, "Baby Plays Around" was given the prime single release spot at one of the most critical times in EC's career, and yet "Broken" is the O'Riordan track that always takes the heat.

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Re: "In time we can turn these obsessions into careers"MLAR2

Postby FAVEHOUR » Mon Mar 21, 2011 12:15 pm

Well, I actually like Baby Plays Around, a nice tune, sung in that "sobbing" voice Elvis does sometimes, with some pleasant guitar work. For me, Broken is just a drone, with lyrics that tip over the edge of lugubriousness.

dave

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Re: "In time we can turn these obsessions into careers"MLAR2

Postby cwr » Mon Mar 21, 2011 12:25 pm

Oh, I like it, too. I'm just surprised that it hasn't come in for even a portion of the flack that "Broken" catches, given that it was a much higher profile song and would therefore seemingly be a bigger target...

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Re: "In time we can turn these obsessions into careers"MLAR2

Postby Poor Deportee » Mon Mar 21, 2011 2:51 pm

I don't really get the parallel. 'Baby Plays Around' is a fine little song, a plaintive ballad with attractive guitarwork, nice melody and reasonably effective lyrics...while 'Broken' is just ponderous open-mic-night mediocrity. That his wife was involved in the composition of the former is irrelevant; it boils down to whether the song is any good or not. 'Baby' is, 'Broken' isn't, therefore we rant about 'Broken' and not 'Baby.'

Thinking about the Beard and all, it's hard to imagine that EC wasn't cultivating some sort of bizarre John Lennon-esque conceptual play on this album. Collaborations with McCartney...a beard worthy of Lennon circa 1969...a (bad) track written entirely by his wife...and a massive tip of the hat to 'Don't Let Me Down' in the guitar figure on 'Sweet Pear.' That's what great about that period, the madness seems to know no bottom. :lol:
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Re: "In time we can turn these obsessions into careers"MLAR2

Postby Jack of All Parades » Mon Mar 21, 2011 4:38 pm

Continuing with the Beard[as it runs through this thread like Gogol's Nose ran through St. Petersburg] love this 'beard' much more-

http://www.dmbeatles.com/discography/c_54_front.jpg

as opposed to this perhaps 'faux' attempt at homage-

http://www.elviscostello.info/wiki/imag ... _front.jpg

Just a far more appealing image the former if EC were trying to play out that scenario.
"....there's a merry song that starts in 'I' and ends in 'You', as many famous pop songs do....'

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Re: "In time we can turn these obsessions into careers"MLAR2

Postby cwr » Tue Mar 22, 2011 5:57 am

Nice observation of all the Lennon parallels! AND, let's not forget his very public dig at Lennon in "Other Side Of Summer"! He definitely had Lennon on the brain during that period!

I do feel that there is a parallel-- "Baby Plays Around" IS a fine little song, but it's also possibly the least commercial single he's ever released, no? Am I missing a poorer choice somewhere along the line? Maybe I am, but BPA is certainly up there. So it might be fine, but the fact is that he picked a quiet little plaintive ballad mostly written by his wife (EC only claims to have "helped" a little) as his follow-up to "Veronica" seems like a much, much bigger target than a mood piece tucked away at the end of MLAR. The way "Broken" gets talked about like it's a crime against music, when it's a pretty straightforward haiku like simple song...

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Re: "In time we can turn these obsessions into careers"MLAR2

Postby sheeptotheslaughter » Tue Mar 22, 2011 6:41 am

For it's worth I also really like this record. (I also really loved Spike) In forty odd years of listening to music I can't tell if a record if over produced or not. I am also one of those who is not a great lover of Broken but I cant find something to like in all the rest of the songs. I was going thru a rough time in my life and had lost a slight bit of interest in Elvis for probably the only time I have been a fan since watching the detectives was released. But really liked the record. My main bug bear with the record is I had the choice between buying MLAR or have a treble on three major cup finals( Spurs to beat forest, Dundee utd to beat motherwell and Man Utd to beat Barca). I took the option to buy MLAR and it cost me a few hundred pounds.

The Other Side Of Summer got a lot of airplay here in the UK when it was released and still didnt make the top 40. I have nothing against the beard and have sometimes wished I had tried the same look especially as I approach 50. Sadly my work wouldnt take too kindly to it. I have a bigger problem with the silly tache of SP&S. The first Elvis record I really find no love for.


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