I saw Elvis Costello last night at the Orpheum Theatre in Vancouver.   It was once again an enormous treat. The two and a half hour show, with no opening act, came complete with audience participation, a spinning song picker, a cage dancer or two, and Diana Krall.

An ex girlfriend,  who has been a Bob Dylan fan forever, once remarked that Elvis was my Dylan, in part because of the length of time I had enjoyed his music and in part because of the many musical shifts in his career.  These were keen observations.  From the first note of “Welcome to My Working Week” on his debut album “My Aim is True” in 1976, I have been a fan.  I have followed him from the early “songs of sneer” as he now describes them,  through his embrace of any number of genres of music including country, pop, bluegrass and indeed classical.

Along the way Elvis has collaborated with many musicians including such unlikely candidates as Bill Clinton and Smokey Robinson.  My list of his Top Five collaborations are:

1. Nick Lowe

Elvis and Nick go way back, Nick having produced Elvis’ first five albums.  They here performs Nick’s song made famous by Elvis “(What’s So Funny ‘Bout) Peace Love and Understanding”, turning it into a county music ballad.  Having no less than James Burton on guitar helps to achieve that vibe considerably I should think.

2. Lucinda Williams

Elvis and Lucinda have recorded together a number of times.  This clip is from a CMT (Country Music Television) series called “Crossroads” which brings together rock and country artists.  It debuted with an Elvis and Lucinda episode in 2002.  The two songs here, the Rolling Stones’ “Wild Horses” and Lucinda’s “Blue”, are a display of combined artistry that is nothing short of magical.

3. Paul McCartney

Elvis and Paul recorded a album together in 1998 (not released on vinyl so far as I know and rare on disc) called “The Studio Collaboration”.  “So Like Candy” is one of the gems off it.  Cool song.

4. Alan Toussaint

Alan Toussaint is a New  Orleans writer, producer and musician of enormous influence.  He and Elvis met at a benefit for Katrina victims.  In 2006, they released to wide acclaim “The River in Reverse” which came out of the first major recording session in New Orleans after the storm. I saw and heard them in Vancouver around that time.  They played for three hours with palpable joy at sharing their gifts.  One of my all time favourite concert experiences. This track is called “Ascension Day” and is illustrative of the theme of the album.

5. Burt Bacharach

Elvis had been a long time Burt fan when he recorded an album of entirely original co-written material with him in 1998, a busy year apparently.  This famous Burt tune (performed by Elvis and Burt), “Never Fall in Love Again” is from the Austin Powers’ soundtrack. It is worth a watch and a listen even if you don’t like Heather Graham.

  1. earthboy011 says:

    I have a story that shows just how far his music reaches. Elvis & Diana have twins. When the twins were 2 years old they had a favourite Elvis song. I asked my son if he could guess what it was. Before he could answer my then 4 year old grandson piped up, “That’s easy! Radio, Radio of course.” He was right. One of my favourites too.

    How about weighing in on the top 5 covers performed by Elvis? Number one goes to Good Year For The Roses.

  2. topfivevinyl says:

    Great story. And an excellent idea for a Top Five list. Out of the gate I would agree with you regarding Year For the Roses and add Peace, Love and Understanding, I’m Your Toy (Hot Burrito #1), Cruel to Be Kind and finally Baby It’s You.

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