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Best of Two Worlds

Elvis Costello's new release called "Spanish Model" is a reworking of his 1978 album "This Year's Model." (Press Photo Courtesy of UMG)

Pardon the puns but it’s worlds colliding or the best of two worlds on Saturday’s World Music Show (9/25) because two of my favorite musical beings have morphed. 

I’m talking about one of my long-time heroes Elvis Costello and one my favorite genres of world music, Latin. 

In past shows, I’ve been able to eek out some Elvis tunes--there’s his duet with La Marisoul (“ Cinco Minutos Con Vos”) on the fantastic album ‘Wise up Ghost,’ which he did with The Roots. Then lately, he’s worked with Iggy Pop on the song “ No Flag,” which Iggy sings in French. Plus, he reworked the song “ Hetty O'hara Confidential,” from his Clockface album, with French singer Etta Somatis. Before all that, I stretched my format to play his duet with Jimmy Cliff on “Seven Day Weekend,” and even played his cover of the Yoko Ono song “Walking on Thin Ice.” What can I say, I love Elvis.

Well now, he and producer Sebastian Krys (who’s worked with Elvis on ‘Hey Clockface,’ and ‘Don’t Look Now,’) released an updated, reworked, reimagined album of Elvis’ 1978 landmark album ‘This Year’s Model.’

But it’s not a “covers” album. Nope, it’s really a unique and courageous work that removes most of Elvis’s voice (save for some background vocals on a few songs) and inserts various Latin singers -- all the while keeping The Attractions sound from the original recording intact. Krys did tweak some of The Attractions sound but upping the bass lines of Bruce Thomas or extending Pete Thomas’ drums (beautifully done by connecting “No Action” to “I Don’t Want to Go to Chelsea.”)

Doing this reworking came--as many of Elvis’ ideas--as a sort of fluke. Costello says in an interview that he and Krys were tasked with updating “Crawling to the USA” for the HBO show “The Deuce.” After that, Costello thought, we should redo the entire Model album (Crawling was originally on the UK release of that album, not the U.S.).

I can’t stress enough how amazing this new album is--it just breathes new life into it, without taking any strength away from the original (as some fans on social media have whined about). It’s good to note, that it’s doing really, really well on the Latin Billboard charts, coming in at #6 on the Latin Pop Charts! 

If you like what you’re hearing then do yourself a favor and seek out a series of videos Elvis and Sebastian put out on Elvis Costello’s YouTube channel. And NPR Alt. Latino host Felix Contreras also breaks down the album on Spotify or you can tune in on NPR

Other things to check out on the show include some classic highlife music out of Ghana by Gyedu-Blay Ambolley and his Creations, which has some rap lyrics inserted--the first artist in that country to do so; and I’ll spin a bunch of classic Ska, Two-Tone and Rocksteady beats by bands like The Upsetters, The Untouchables, The Paragons and The English Beat.

Not to miss will be a beautiful song by Comorian, which producer and friend of the show Ian Brennan (Tinariwen, Zomba Prison Project). In case you missed last week, I spoke with producer and author Ian Brennan. 

He loves traveling the faraway hard to reach spots to record musicians who aren’t super polished--as in studio produced. He did just that when he found the musician Comorian, who lives on a tiny African island, “well sequestered in the Indian Ocean and uninhabited by man until centuries after Christ.” It’s known as one of the islands of the moon. It is a nation with no army, only police. “A place where women don thick mud-masks for sunblock.” It took Ian six flights to get there. He found Comorian after talking to a bunch of other musicians--and ended up recording him live and outdoors as he sat in a broken down car.

Plus, there’s lots of other great tunes, so tune into the World Music Show Saturday night from 6-8pm on VPM Music, 93.1 or 107.3FM in the Richmond region, or stream the show right here.


Ian M. Stewart is the transportation reporter and fill-in anchor for VPM News.
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