Oct 12, 2021
By Matthew Berlyant
Leave it to Elvis Costello, long-known for surprising, confusing, and challenging his fanbase, and his collaborator/producer Sebastian Krys, to take another left turn in a career full of them, this one almost 45 years into his illustrious recording career. Instead of just reissuing his landmark 1978 2nd album This Year’s Model (of which there is a 2021 remaster paired with this release), he goes one step further and gives us a full-fledged covers album with Spanish-language artists, both stars and little known, singing their own vocals (with Elvis’ lyrics translated into Spanish!) over the original 1978 backing tracks.
Costello’s voice is sometimes heard, too, particularly in a new “duet” version of “Pump It Up” with the Argentinian singer Juanes, and occasionally on other tracks as well, such as Fito Paez’s seering version of the blistering “Radio Radio,” famously added to the original U.S. version of the album in 1978 after he performed it on Saturday Night Live in a stunt that got him banned from the show for 12 years.
Mostly, though, this is the younger singers’ show, though the vocals here are paired excellently with the music, creating something totally unique that isn’t a remix, a strict covers album, or anything of the sort. In fact, while many other artists have covered his songs over the years and there have been volumes devoted to it (see the 1998 compilation Bespoke Songs, Lost Dogs, and Detours or the early 2000s alt-country covers compilation Almost You), I can’t think of a single precedent for a record like this.
It should also be noted that the tracks on this album are taken out of order (though thankfully, it does open with Nina Diaz’s take on “No Action,” one of the best album openers ever), giving it more of a feel of a brand new album than just a straight track-by-track covers album. There are also some excellent non-album tracks included here, too, my favorite being “Running Out of Fools,” partly because Vega even replicates the false start found on the demo version included on various reissues over the last 30 years.
Elsewhere, there is a raucous take on “Big Tears” (one of several tracks featuring the contribution of The Clash’s Mick Jones on guitar to the original 1978 sessions) sung by Sebastian Yatra. There are also several remixes of the aforementioned “Pump It Up” and a dub take on “(I Don’t Want to Go to) Chelsea,” both of which are less essential than the other tracks, but still fun. Overall, if Costello’s aim here was to not only draw renewed attention to a much-loved album in his catalog, but to also draw attention to singers in the vast Spanish-speaking world, he has succeeded on both fronts. (www.elviscostello.com)
Author rating: 7.5/10
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