When I Was Cruel
Release Date: Apr 23, 2002
Record Label: Island Records (USA)
Personnel includes: Elvis Costello (vocals, arranger, electric guitar, Spanish guitar, harmonica, melodica, piano, Fender Rhodes piano, harmonium, bass, cymbals, loops); Steve Nieve (melodica, piano, Clavinet, Hammond B-3 organ, keyboards, vibraphone); Roy Nathanson (alto saxophone); Jay Rodriguez (tenor saxophone); Ku-umba Frank Lacy (trumpet, flugelhorn); Curtis Fowlkes (trombone); Bill Ware (vibraphone); Davey Faragher (bass); Pete Thomas (drums, shaker, tambourine, percussion); Leo Pearson (tabla, programming); Steven Kennedy (background vocals).
Producers include: Elvis Costello, Ciarin Cahill, Leo Pearson, Kieran Lynch.
Recorded at Windmill Lane, Dublin, Ireland; Avatar Studios, New York, New York.
WHEN I WAS CRUEL was nominated for the 2003 Grammy Awards for Best Rock Album. "45" was nominated for the 2003 Grammy Awards for Best Male Rock Vocal Performance.
Though he was involved in worthy collaborations (Burt Bacharach, Anne Sofie Von Otter in the interim, the notoriously prolific Elvis Costello didn't release a proper solo album between 1996's triumph ALL THIS USELESS BEAUTY and this 2002 effort, the longest gap of his career. WHEN I WAS CRUEL is a return to visceral, rock-oriented production and songwriting after the more complex, sophisticated pursuits of his aforementioned collaborative works, and one can feel Costello's joy at getting back to his roots for a while. The maturation of the previous decade isn't invisible here--this is not the sturm und drang of THIS YEAR'S MODEL (or even BLOOD & CHOCOLATE), but this as electric-guitar-based as latter-day EC gets, and the likes of "Tear Off Your Own Head" and "Daddy Can I Turn This" are as hard-hitting as anything he's done.
Two-thirds of the Attractions (occupying the drum and keyboard stools) are on hand to provide that classic sound, but new arrival Davey Farragher impressively emulates disgruntled bassist Bruce Thomas's McCartney-on-speed licks. Tasteful horns add effective coloring to the quartet sound, and Costello's own tremolo-drenched guitar has never been so prevalent. Despite a couple of long, moody songs (the title track and the closing "Radio Silence"), the overwhelming feeling here is one of unbridled energy of the sort Costello hadn't let out for quite a while. "Every Elvis has his army," sings Mr. Costello on "Episode of Blonde," and it appears that his is well trained enough to mobilize effectively even after long periods of rest.
Included in Rolling Stone's 50 Best Albums of 2002
Rolling Stone (12/26/2002)
...Costello has blessed us with a motherlode of tunes, concetrating on crafting self-proclaimed rowdy rhythm ballads shaded with subtle textures and vibes...
6 out of 10 - ...CRUEL is ultimately a welcome return to the office...
Alternative Press (06/01/2002)
6 out of 10 - ...There are reassuringly unhealthy signs of life...
3 out of 5 stars - ...Raw and lengthy....the veins at Costello's temples are throbbing again...
7 out of 10 - ...The professor [has] his groove back....46-year-old Elvis sneers, snipes, and snaps like it's '77....the music-ranging from twangy jazzisms...to raucous blues rock...lets Costello honor his roots...
4 out of 5 stars - ...Costello still records...with care and creativity....WHEN I WAS CRUEL is a collection of tough tunes and textures that recalls-but doesn't recycle-the records that endeared him to his earliest admirers...
Rolling Stone (05/09/2002)
Ranked #4 on CMJ's Top 10 of 2002
Ranked #2 on EW's list of 2002's Albums of the Year - ...Packed with bristling spews, noir soundscapes, and cutting autobiographical sketches that reveal a man grappling with the onset of middle age...
Ranked #33 in Mojo's Best Albums of 2002