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Declan Patrick MacManus (born August 25, 1954, in Liverpool), better known by his stage name, Elvis Costello, is a popular British musician, singer, and songwriter of Irish ancestry. Some sources list his full given name as Declan Patrick Aloysius MacManus, however Aloysius was not one of his names at birth, being added years later.
Costello was an early participant in London's pub rock scene in the mid-1970s, and later became associated with the punk rock and new wave musical genres, before establishing himself as a unique and original voice in the 1980s. His output has been wildly diverse: one critic has written that "Costello, the pop encyclopedia, can reinvent the past in his own image."
His prolific and varied 30-year career has been marked by two constants: sharp songwriting and musical restlessness. The latter has seen him dabble in almost every musical form, from country to jazz to orchestral. This stems from the fact that, at heart, Costello is a fan. His desire to work with his musical heroes has attracted collaborators as diverse as Burt Bacharach and Paul McCartney, Allen Toussaint, Aimee Mann, Bill Frisell and Brian Eno.
But his most successful partners were his long-term band The Attractions. They comprised Steve Nieve (keyboards), Pete Thomas (drums) and Bruce Thomas (bass). Between 1978 and 1983, this outfit produced a peerless series of albums: This Year's Model; Armed Forces; Get Happy!!; Almost Blue; Trust; Imperial Bedroom and Punch The Clock.
These recordings drew on styles spanning soul, country and western and commercial pop. It was only with 1984's Goodbye Cruel World that Costello started to stumble. An album he concedes was one of his worst, it ushered in a period which produced interesting music but lacked the consistent quality of his halcyon days. Interestingly, although he enlisted the other Elvis's band for King of America in 1986, it was a reunion with The Attractions and former producer Nick Lowe that produced his best album of the late 1980s in the form of the scabrous Blood and Chocolate.
The following albums, Spike and Mighty Like a Rose were uncompromising and difficult solo works, as was the string quartet collaboration The Juliet Letters in 1993. It was only reconvening the Attractions for Brutal Youth the following year that gave his fans another glimpse of what first attracted them to him: punchy, angry pop songs, tightly played by an impeccably taut ensemble.
Since then, Costello has become a career dilettante, true to his inner musical quest, but never again returning to heights he scaled in the early 1980s. Maybe the best work of this latter period was 1998's Painted From Memory. This joint effort with Burt Bacharach matched restrained writing from Costello with stately Bacharach arrangements.
Subsequent career nadirs such as the tune-free North (2003), and instrumental orchestral works such as Il Sogno (2004) led many long-term admirers to conclude that Costello had retained his integrity at the expense of his real musical strengths. However, he has given occasional evidence of his former fire. The ballsy bar-room atmosphere of the collaborative The Delivery Man (2004), suggests that he is still capable of giving his fans what they want, in between his more esoteric experiments.
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