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Biographies: Elvis Costello

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Reviewer: Iluvthe80s

Elvis Costello is the stage name of self-taught songwriter Declan MacManus. He first performed in public in 1969, and began his recording career in 1976 with the making of the album 'My Aim Is True'. Since then, he has made more than a dozen albums, mostly comprised of original compositions. These include: 'This Year's Model,' 'Armed Forces,' 'Get Happy,' 'Imperial Bedroom,' 'King Of America,' 'Blood And Chocolate,' 'Spike,' 'Mighty Like A Rose,' 'Brutal Youth,' and 'Kojak Variety'.

Between 1977 and 1985, Costello recorded and toured almost exclusively with his band The Attractions. Between 1986 and 1993, he performed as a solo artist and led touring ensembles such as The Rude 5.

Many of Costello's 300 or so songs have been recorded by other artists. The list of performers reflects his interest in a wide range of musical styles: Chet Baker, Johnny Cash, June Tabor, Roy Orbison, Roger McGuinn, Charles Brown, George Jones, The Composer's Ensemble and Blur, among others. In addition, Costello has written with his wife Cait O'Riordan, Paul McCartney and Richard Harvey, with whom he collaborated on the BAFTA award-winning score for Alan Bleasdale's British television series G.B.H. He has recently worked with Richard again on the score of Alan Bleasdale's acclaimed series 'Jake's Progress'.

In 1992, Costello began his collaboration with the Brodsky Quartet. 'The Juliet Letters,' a song sequence for string quartet and voice, was followed by a highly successful world tour. In 1995, he completed a new composition for the viol group Fretwork and the counter tenor Michael Chance, as part of the South Bank Centre's Fretwork Fantasy project in commemoration of the Tercentenary of the death of Henry Purcell. Put Away Forbidden Playthings was premiered at The Purcell Room in March '95.

As a record producer, Costello has worked with The Specials, Squeeze and The Pogues; as a guest vocalist, he contributed to Hal Wilner's Weird Nightmare (a celebration of the music of Charles Mingus) and has recorded and performed with, among others, T Bone Burnett, Sam Moore, Bob Dylan, The Dirty Dozen Brass Band, Neil Young, The Chieftains and The Count Basie Orchestra. In 1994, he was a guest vocalist on the Grammy Award-wiming record MTV Unplugged by Tony Bennett.

In June 1994, Costello acted in a new role as Artistic Director of the South Bank's Meltdown Festival. He performed once again with The Brodsky Quartet, and also with The Jazz Passengers. The recording of his debut performance with guitarist Bill Frisell sold out on the limited edition Nonesuch Records release, Deep Dead Blue. This festival also included the premiere of Costello's Edge of Ugly, a very short orchestral work written for The London Philharmonic Orchestra and conducted by Gunther Schuller.

1994 saw Elvis Costello and The Attractions joining forces in concert once again. They recorded together for the first time in nine years for the album Brutal Youth. A new album, co-produced with Geoff Emerick and entitled All This Useless Beauty, has just been released by Warner Bros. Records.

The album features such tracks as 'You Bowed Down,' 'Poor Fractured Atlas,' 'Little Atoms,' 'Why Can't A Man Stand Alone?' and 'Shallow Grave,' co-written with Paul McCartney. 'I Want To Vanish' is performed in an arrangement by Costello and Steve Nieve for an octet, including the members of the Brodsky Quartet.

Costello recently worked with Brian Eno on the track 'My Dark Life' for the Warner Bros. Records compilation Songs In The Key Of X -- Music From and Inspired By The X-Files. He is also currently collaborating on the recording of a co-composition with Burt Bacharach, 'God Give Me Strength,' specially composed for the Allison Anders-directed film, ' Grace Of My Heart,' which is due for release later this year. Following his performance with the legendary gospel group The Fairfield Four at the Meltdown Festival '95, Costello recently traveled to Nashville where he was guest vocalist on a recorded version of the McCartney/MacManus composition 'That Day Is Done.' It will appear on the Fairfield Four's forthcoming album for Warner Bros. Records. In the autumn, Costello will be among the singers featured on Argo Records' Terror and Magnificence, the first fidl album of compositions by classical saxophonist John Harle. These include 'O Mistress Mine'- three song settings from Shakespeare's Twelfth Night, which were specially adapted for Costello's voice. Costello began 1996 by performing in a concert alongside Anne Sofie Von Otter with the Swedish Radio Symphony Orchestra in Stockholm. He is now in the process of composing a new work for Anne Sofie Von Otter and The Brodsky Quartet entitled 'Three Distracted Women.'


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