Elvis Costello Countdown #38: “That Day Is Done”

Earlier in the list, I talked about “Mistress And Maid,” an excellent song co-written by Paul McCartney and Elvis Costello that got away from Macca a bit when he brought it into the studio. Luckily, he had no such problems with “That Day Is Done,” which was impeccably rendered on Flowers In The Dirt, the Paul album which takes its title from lyrics in the song. McCartney renders the song with the mixture of grandeur and sorrow that the lyrics demand.

We are also lucky that Costello provided his own version of this heartfelt song on the extra disc of the All Useless Beauty reissue. In that take, Elvis is accompanied by legendary session man Larry Knechtel on piano and the inimitable Fairfield Four on backing vocals. This version, especially with those amazing backing vocalists on board, really drives home the song’s gospel influences.

“That Day Is Done” feels like the duo’s attempt to replicate some of the somber majesty of the early recordings of The Band, especially the Dylan-penned numbers “Tears Of Rage” and “I Shall Be Released.” The open spaces in the music, the gospel influences, the lyrics which come from the perspective of a man who can’t keep his promise to his love because death has intervened, all of that recalls the mystery and magic of those first two Band albums.

Costello delivered a moving performance of this song at a tribute concert for Linda McCartney in 1999. Such painful occasions are why songs like this are written, because they pinpoint the myriad emotions inside of us better than we could ever possibly articulate them ourselves. That kind of beautiful sadness is generally the province of a master songwriter; “That Day Is Done” came from two of those masters, so the results are doubly heartrending.

(The full Elvis Costello list is now available in e-book form. Here is the link:)

http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00BXLUFN2

(E-mail the author at countdownkid@hotmail.com.)

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Elvis Costello Countdown #66: “The Days Take Care Of Everything”

It’s one of the finest late-period Elvis Costello albums, but if you don’t have it already, you’re going to have to pay a little extra for a new copy. It’s out of print, you see.

I’m talking about the bonus disc found on the 2001 reissue of All This Useless Beauty. The songs contained on that disc are a wild cross-section of material, ranging from stuff written for other artists, to revamped versions of previously recorded songs, to covers, heck, there’s even a remix in there. Although it’s not structured in any coherent way and therefore constitutes a bit of a bumpy ride when heard all the way through, you’d be hard-pressed to find a better collection of 17 songs not just on any Elvis album, but on any album, period.

“The Days Take Care Of Everything” might well be the emotional centerpiece of this non-album, a stirring ballad that raises goose bumps with every listen. Costello’s efforts to write for others are always fascinating, because he doesn’t always realize that his unique style of lyric-writing would put words in the mouths of the intended singers that might not fit. For example, this song was written for Roy Orbison, but can you really hear Roy wrapping his glorious pipes around some of Elvis’ wordier phrases here? (Costello would solve that problem when he re-wrote “The Comedians” to fit Orbison better.)

I suppose there are remnants of Orbisonian drama in the surging melody of “The Days Take Care Of Everything,” but so much where you feel like it’s Elvis doing Roy. That’s OK, though, because you’re left with a ballad that’s pure E.C. and purely brilliant. The song is sung from the point of a view of a guy who has been a shoulder to cry on for a girl going through a bad romance, but he ultimately wants to be something more.
As someone who has been in that situation, the emotions that he conjures up in those lyrics are on-point.

Like any jilted suitor, he veers from hurt feelings to snide remarks to genuine warmth for this girl. Things reach a fever pitch when he realizes that the girl is not to blame for his reticence to show his feelings: “But how could you know that I was longing inside?/Our eyes never met and my hands stayed by my side.” In the refrain, he tries to assure the girl that her woes will not last, but you get the feeling he would have a hard time believing his own advice. Who cares if it was never released and it comes on an unofficial album? “The Days Take Care Of Everything” is wonderful nonetheless.

(The full Elvis Costello list is now available in e-book form. Here is the link:)

http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00BXLUFN2