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When I Was Cruel

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Audio CD, April 23, 2002
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$7.52 & FREE Shipping on orders over $35. Details Only 7 left in stock. Sold by megahitrecords and Fulfilled by Amazon. Gift-wrap available.

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Editorial Reviews

Product Description


Following a string of tasteful but sometimes bloodless collaborations with Sophie Van Otter, Bill Frisell, and the London Symphony Orchestra, Costello delivers his most visceral and satisfying CD in years with When I Was Cruel. Reunited with half the Attractions, Pete Thomas and Steve Nieve, Costello sticks relatively close to the sharp new-wave melodies that sealed his reputation in the late '70s and '80s, but infuses them with powerful sonic touches: a hypnotic loop of Italian pop singer Mina that carries the title track, the melodica that casts an eerie glow over "Soul for Hire," and the frenetic, klezmer-inspired horns that drive "15 Petals." Costello's guitar is frequently drenched in tremolo, and his lyrical wit hasn't been this consistently spiky and unforced since Blood & Chocolate. Compared to some of his more uptown adventures, When I Was Cruel may seem at first a kind of semi-nostalgic slumming, but the opposite may be the case: like Woody Allen, Costello is at his most artful when he produces perfect pop trifles that will almost certainly outlast his more self-conscious "serious" work. --Keith Moerer

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Songs from this album are available to purchase as MP3s. Click on "Buy MP3" or view the MP3 Album.

Song Title Time Price
listen  1. 45 3:33$0.99  Buy MP3 
listen  2. Spooky Girlfriend 4:22$0.99  Buy MP3 
listen  3. Tear Off Your Own Head ( It's A Doll Revolution) 3:31$1.29  Buy MP3 
listen  4. When I Was Cruel No.2 7:06$0.99  Buy MP3 
listen  5. Soul For Hire 3:55$0.99  Buy MP3 
listen  6. 15 Petals 4:01$0.99  Buy MP3 
listen  7. Tart 4:03$0.99  Buy MP3 
listen  8. Dust 2 ... 3:21$0.99  Buy MP3 
listen  9. Dissolve 2:23$0.99  Buy MP3 
listen10. Alibi 6:42$0.99  Buy MP3 
listen11. ...Dust 3:04$0.99  Buy MP3 
listen12. Daddy Can I Turn This? 3:41$0.99  Buy MP3 
listen13. My Little Blue Window 3:10$0.99  Buy MP3 
listen14. Episode Of Blonde 5:03$0.99  Buy MP3 
listen15. Radio Silence 4:58$0.99  Buy MP3 

Product Details

  • Audio CD (April 23, 2002)
  • Original Release Date: January 1, 2002
  • Number of Discs: 1
  • Label: Island
  • ASIN: B000063526
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (144 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #85,251 in Music (See Top 100 in Music)

Customer Reviews

4.2 out of 5 stars

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

18 of 20 people found the following review helpful By Karl Miller on April 23, 2002
Format: Audio CD
A lot of ink has been devoted to harking Elvis's return to the substance (if not the style) of his early triumphs, My Aim Is true and This Years Model, with this release. While both of those albums are rightfully viewed as classics, it's great to hear Elvis update his sound while maintaining his edge.
Working with Leo Pearson (U2, various electronica artists), and a number of members of the Attractions, EC has cut an album that rocks with the biting wit that has been his trademark for the past 25 years. It's a welcome addition to his catalogue, and it's a real fun album to listen to. It's also a welcome relief from the collaborative projects that have occupied his time over the last few years.
Elvis is at his best on a number of tunes on this disc. "Tear Your Own Head Off" has some blistering guitar work, and is the best song from the late seventies to be recorded in years. "Soul For Hire" has some deep, ominous sonic textures at work, much like "Watching The Detectives" (allthough it is not reggae-based). There is great use of horns on a number of tracks, particularly "Episode of Blonde". And "When I Was Cruel NO. 2" sounds like a Portishead tune, particularly with its eerie samples and tape loops. It's not something you'd expect from Elvis, but then again, his introduction of the unexpected has generally made for the best tunes on his many projects (the 50's style organ on "The Beat" comes to mind).
This album ranks right up there with "My Aim Is True", and more importantly "This Year's Model" in terms of wrenching tunefulness. Fortunately it is a breakthrough, as opposed to a revival. It's nice to hear an artist who knows what sounds work best for him, and take that to a new level. I hope Joe Jackson listens to this record and tries a similar path.
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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful By on April 23, 2002
Format: Audio CD
Costello ended the 20th century with PAINTED FROM MEMORY and his cover of "She," and many people thought he had lost his edge. It was yet another unpredictable turn from a man who had long ago proved that he was not going to be pigeonholed as just another "punk rocker." And while the work with Bachrach was in many ways another artistic triumph, one couldn't help but fear that the days of Blood & Chocolate were long gone.
Last year, he as much as confirmed this with his gentle and nuanced album with Swedish mezzo-soprano Anne Sofie Von Otter. Surely, this was the end of the thrash and noise of youth-- it was time to settle down and write symphonies and such...
Cut to 2002. WHEN I WAS CRUEL is Costello's return to the world of "rowdy" music, and yet it isn't a return at all. Some of it may feel like Blood & Chocolate's next door neighbor, but the sound is all brand new. This album is darker and funnier, playful and apocalyptic, like a mix of Dylan's last two albums thrown in a stew with a car full of clowns and some Ethiopian pop songs. Lazy critics will say he's "back and he's angry", but there aren't any songs of spiteful lovers here-- the concerns are more worldly and viewed with a spiky wit that gurgles just below the sonic soup.
WHEN I WAS CRUEL is the kind of album that is so good you can't help but hunger for what he's going to do next, be it pop, country, soul, or classical. But until that next one comes along, there is so much to enjoy here. Turn off the lights, turn up the volume, and howl at the moon...
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12 of 14 people found the following review helpful By D. Levy on April 23, 2002
Format: Audio CD
A few notes into the opening track, my wife turned to me and said, "Elvis rocks!" Yes, this is being ballyhooed as Elvis' first rocker since All This Useless Beauty, his last album with the Attractions. Others have called it his best since Blood and Chocolate.
I dunno. I really liked Painted From Memory, and Elvis' live performances in the past few years have been wonderful, so I wasn't looking for any return to far as I'm concerned, the last time Elvis really lost it was Spike and Mighty Like A Rose, and even those sound pretty good these days.
But this new one, well...Yes! This is what I really want Elvis to be doing, rocking, spewing bile, reflecting, singing in the classic Elvis voice, getting Steve Nieve to kick the Farfisa in but also adorn the songs with his incredible arrangements, tetting Pete Thomas to bash in the least and most subtle fashion, and here bring a new bass player, ex-Cracker Davey Faragher, into the fold. Elvis' singing is great, the songs are fascinating and rock hard, the arrangements are cool, and the lyrics...well it'll take a few dozen more listens but I'm sure I'll get 'em.
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11 of 13 people found the following review helpful By Gordon Hilgers on July 11, 2002
Format: Audio CD
There's nothing worse than being a pop dinosaur like, say, Robert Plant. Once you've managed to outgrow the style that made your career, in so many sound-bytes, where in the world do you go with the gains? Like Paul Simon, Joe Jackson, Pete Townshend, John Waters, Stevie Winwood, Paul McCartney and dozens of other performers who have discovered that the visitation of middle age upon their careers is often fatal, Elvis Costello entered a period of intensive experimentation in the early 1990s. This isn't anything particularly new, nor is it all that unusual. When his career began to enter the underworld of rarefied taste, and his growth as a musician and songwriter demanded that he free himself from the relative constraints that in the early 1980s gained him one of the most loyal fan bases of any pop performer since the 1960s, Costello collaborated with string quartets, even co-wrote with Burt Bacharach, trying hard to glean from his obvious talent something more enduring and personally satisfying than musically hanging out with teenagers amd teeny-boppers for the rest of his life. Of course, growing up alongside your original audience is more difficult than it might seem, and though Costello's ambitious experiments were critically well-received, and sometimes even lauded for their expansiveness and beauty, "When I Was Cruel"--a conscious return to the roots of a seminal career--reveals there is still vitriol in the rocker with the shady voice. And that's a good thing.Read more ›
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