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#1 HALL OF FAMEon 18 February 2003
Reading the chapter on Costello in Nick Kent's The Dark Stuff, he certainly comes across as a bitter old man towards the end- griping against Happy Mondays & espousing classical music. Mighty Like a Rose was the album that best summed up this period categorised as "The Beard Years"- which saw Costello become an imposing Rasputin lookalike, scaring my mother when he appeared on Alan Bleasdale's This is Your Life (he scored GBH around this period). Mighty Like a Rose was largely written off, along with THe Juliet Letters & Kojak Variety it left people cold- Costello fans would generally not be appeased till 1994's Attractions-comeback Brutal Youth.
This I think is a shame, as Mighty Like a Rose extends on territory mapped out on previous albums Imperial Bedroom (1982) & Spike (1989). The first disc here collects the 14 songs that made up Mighty Like a Rose- & I don't think there's a dud in there. All Grown Up sounds like Richard Thompson singing a lost Lennon/McCartney song, while McCartney- who co-wrote Veronica & My Brave Face with Costello- is McCartney to Costello's Lennon on So Like Candy.
Costello is not a happy bunny here- Hurry Down Doomsday (The Bugs Are Taking Over) sounds like a fusion of Plastic Ono-Lennon, Franz Kafka & the kind of industrial noises co-producer Mitchell Froom would produce on Suzanne Vega's 99 F. The Other Side of Summer sounds like a hit single that never was- easily up there with anything from Armed Forces (and showcasing Brian Wilson-style aspirations). Invasion Hit Parade sounds like a bleak relative of Beyond Belief, prior to harsh guitar inflected sounds & a killer chorus- the riffs are definitely related to the desperate pulse of 86's Uncomplicated.
One of the best songs here is How to Be Dumb, which is bitter & beautiful as so much of EC's back catalogue; gorgeous music tempered by lyrics such as "beautiful people stampede to the doorway of the funniest fu*ker in the world" or "they emptied out all obvious items" or "you could have walked out anytime you wanted but they said you didn't have any courage...funny those people don't usually get so ugly till they think they know what they want...roll over on your back, repeat after me: don't you know how to be dumb?"- a definite themetune for the cultural shell of the UK, following the abortion that was Cool Britannia (the fact that EC appeared in Spice World only makes this song greater!). This reminds me of Dennis Potter's final interview (see Faber's Seeing the Blossom), where Potter asks if The Sun is really what this country is. How did standards fall so low?, still- shut up/don't moan/we're earning lots of money/700 channels with nothing on/ celebrity scratches supercede starvation & atrocities. Don't we know how to be dumb? One of the great Costello songs of protest- alongside Tramp the Dirt Down, Shipbuilding, Pills & Soap and Beyond Belief. And it's got a great bridge, for people who care about such things- perhaps Pop Idol-types or goons like The Music ought to listen here to get some ideas? Up there with Kevin Rowland's One of These Things: where "they all sounded the same" now "they know how to be dumb". Get on the bus...
The other key song here is Couldn't Call it Unexpected#4- a maudlin waltz equal to Mark Eiztel's Sacred Heart- Costello's phrasing is gorgeous, heartbreaking & disturbing: "well you can laugh at this sentimental story/but in time you'll have to make amends...but I'm the lucky fool who composed this tune...who on earth is tapping at the window?...I saw you shiver though the room was like a furnace...please don't let me be anything I cannot explain/I can't believe I'll never believe in anything again"- this song has supplanted Riot Act, I Want You, I'll Wear It Proudly & New Amsterdam as my favourite Costello song: a genius song...
The second disc offers various demos, out-takes & alternate versions of this era- highlights include It Started to Come to Me, a version of Spike's Deep Dark Truthful Mirror & Put Your Toe in the Milk of Human Kindness (will Costello's unplugged & Tasmin Archer works from the early 90s be issued on these Rhino collections?).
Mighty Like a Rose stands next to Brutal Youth & All This Useless Beauty as a highlight of Costello's 1990s & has plenty to offer to people who may have missed out first time round. An underrated classic...
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on 8 February 2011
Mighty Like A Rose is a much better album than many reviewers would have you believe. For me this is a continuation on some of themes he started on Spike, although it's a very different to that album. Essentially Costello is starting to become more experimental with this album and is starting to draw on some of his classical interests, which he explores further on GBH and Jakes Progress soundtracks. It remains very much a pop album despite this just with differeent textures.

It includes some great songs, namely Couldn't Call It unexpected, After The Fall and How to be dumb, which I believe hold up against other classic Costello tracks. You also get the wonderful Other Side of Summer and a couple of collaborations with McCartney.

Essentially a good addition to his catalogue
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on 22 December 2011
I felt compelled to write a review for this album for one reason - Elvis's output has been hit-and-miss over the years, with some exceptional highs set against the inevitable indigestible hiccough (if you pardon the mixed metaphor). Released close to each other, he brought us two comparable yet quite different albums - Spike, and Mighty Like A Rose. I'd like to be perhaps a lone voice saying that MLAR was far superior.

From the aggressive and energetic - and hugely enjoyable - pop-rock of The Other Side of Summer and How To Be Dumb (a public attack on his former Attractions bass player Bruce Thomas) to the delicate, dark beauty of Broken, this is certainly an album of varying styles, but they hold together well, and the tunes generally play out far better than on the earlier album Spike. Costello's infamous occasional habit of producing unlistenable melodies to accompany convoluted lyrics is nowhere to be heard here, and where he does venture into less mainstream sounds (for instance, in Couldn't Call It Unexpected Nr 2), the near-seamless production allows him to blend this with the rest of the songs without any jarring at all.

Georgie And Her Rival sounds as though it actually belongs on the album Spike, telling us two things - first, that the production here is so coherent that such judgements can be made; and second, that the two albums are indeed to be judged next to each other.

In all, this is excellent stuff: pointed, angry enough yet poignant enough to please any die-hard fan, and brilliantly tuneful.

Mighty Like A Rose works on many levels, and is worth many hearings.
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on 1 February 2001
Dating from the time that Costello was being influenced by many different musical styles, this album contains a real mix of references from the Beach Boys ('The Other Side of Summer') through Paul McCartney ('So Like Candy') to the Celtic-sounding strains of 'Broken'. Whether such diversity on one album is easily digestible is debatable, and it could be argued that, in Mighty Like A Rose,Costello had lost his focus. However, the album is well worth a listen. There are some worthy individual tracks, in fact this album contains something for everyone. For the true Costello fan, the musical breadth offered will mark an important point in the artist's career. Maybe not Costello at his best, but certainly an interesting collaction.
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on 7 March 2006
I resisted this album for years,having being disappointed by the previous dismal album Spike.I only purchased the double cd reissue cos i got it for a fiver and i have to say it was the best £5 i spent last year.There are four songs on this LP which are to my mind amongst the best songs Costello has ever written. After the fall, Harpies bizzare,All grown up and couldn't call it unexpected no4 (the final verse of which will have you weeping) are an immense quartet of songs.the remaining songs on here are of the highest quality too.Dont let the album artwork put you off. this record repays repeated listening and is well worth the money.I have every Costello cd on my ipod and the four songs i mentioned are all in the top twenty of my most played list,thats how good i think they are out of the 4000 songs on there!
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on 27 August 2005
EC has made some truly fantastic albums over the years, but 1982's "Imperial Bedroom" (commonly called his masterpiece) is not one of them. Overproduced, overwrought, glutinous and not even that catchy, melodically. This 1991 album is the same 'quasi-classical' pop-rock territory revisited and done ten times better. I understand it's supposed to be one of his worst albums - as is typical in these instances, it may well be his best.
Toxic Beach Boys ("The Other Side Of Summer"), drum-loop clatter and Mark E Smith rant ("Hurry Down Doomsday") and the nastiest song he's ever written ("How To Be Dumb") make for a seriously impressive opening salvo. Then there's the swoony orchestral "All Grown Up", the upbeat but oddly haunting "Georgie And Her Rival", the raucous "Payboy To A Man" (which sounds like The Fall meets Little Richard meets The Wildhearts!), the heartbreaking "So Like Candy" (although the verses on this one kind of plod), the even more heartbreaking "Broken" (an exquisite lyric), and the closing "Couldn't Call It Unexpected"...well, there's a good reason everyone gushes over this song. Haunting, beautiful, highly scary (it's basically about death)...it's got it all.
Of the rest, "Harpies Bizarre" is self-conscious but interesting, "Invasion Hit Parade" is overlong but has a great, unique chorus, and "After The Fall" "Sweet Pear" and the instrumental are perhaps superfluous.
His next full-on 'rock' album, 1994's "Brutal Youth" is even better! Elvis Costello - Paul Weller with talent, charm, and brains! What else do you need, people?!
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on 22 August 2004
Many beleive that this is one of Costello`s weakest efforts, i must disagree, mighty like a rose is one of the best albums i have heard in a long time! The highlights for me were All grown up, How to be dumb and Invasion hit parade. You wont find any tracks from mighty like a rose on his latest greatest hits album which i must say is a shame as many of the these quality songs really do deserve a place in the collection, buy buy buy, you will not be dissapointed!
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on 20 November 2013
Not one of the most beloved parts of Costello's canon, but I've been listening to it a lot lately and it stands up: How to be Dumb is one of his best ever put downs (and tunes) and Couldn't Call It Unexpected absolutely heartbreaking. Yes, it's overcooked in places, but well worth reevaluation.
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on 22 June 2015
Mighty, mighty !
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