Thursday, December 06, 2007

Almost Blue: Elvis Costello & Chet Baker

This is the first of a three-part series dedicated to the genius of Elvis Costello, who in my opinion is one of the most talented musical figures of the last half century. Today's edition features his wonderful composition Almost Blue.

Simply put, this song is a masterpiece. It sounds like something from Cole Porter or the Gershwin Brothers rather than just the latest tune from a prolific 28-year-old "punk" rocker.

The opening lines make the song:

Almost blue...
Almost doing things we used to do...
There's a girl here and she's almost you...

Wow! I wish I could write something like that. Simple but perfect.

Here's Elvis' original version from the album Imperial Bedroom:

Elvis Costello - Almost Blue (buy album).

Now listen this version of the song by jazz vocalist and trumpet player, Chet Baker, from the soundtrack to the movie Let's Get Lost:

Chet Baker - Almost Blue (buy album).

Baker was, to say the least, not in his best shape when he took on Costello's piece, but the song fits perfectly. The movie, which traces Baker's career from jazz idol to junkie (not an unfamiliar path) is worth finding and watching. While Chet's later work may not be for everyone (though, believe me, it grows on you), you have to try something from his 1950's catalog--perfect music for driving your rag top down the Pacific Coast Highway on a sunny Sunday afternoon:

Chet Baker - I Fall In Love Too Easily (buy album)

Highly Recommended!


Dave said...

My recollection from the time Almost Blue was released was of Elvis saying he wrote it hoping Frank Sinatra would sing it. In seeking to verify that (admittedly fuzzy) recollection, I read that Elvis wrote it specifically with Chet Baker in mind. It didn't stop Chet from rearranging the lyrics, though.

Paul said...

Dave, Thanks for the interesting story. I'm really impressed by Costello's versatility - Rock, Country, Sinatra, he did it all.

casper said...

Thanks for this pair, I initially thought Elvis was actually doing a CB cover