"Isabelle in Tears"- for whom does that bell, toll?........

Pretty self-explanatory
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Jack of All Parades
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"Isabelle in Tears"- for whom does that bell, toll?........

Postby Jack of All Parades » Tue Nov 13, 2018 7:29 pm

"I agree with this, except to say that although 'Stripping Paper' is a work of genius which few other songwriters/performers could even get close to...it is still left standing in the dust by 'Isabelle in Tears', surely one of the great achievements of Costello's 'later years' (if we might presume to call them such).

The melody is immediately arresting and haunting. The narrative voice shifts seamlessly between Isabelle's sometime lover, Isabelle herself, and a narrator confronting the listener (who is also cast as a lover). The whole thing is incredibly poignant, but at the same time the puns and the wordplay come at you like machine-gun fire: 'is a bell (is) ringing?', the bombshell/incendiary line, getting the genii/genius back in the bottle, the onomatopoeic 'tripped-up-the-stairs', the half-rhyme of shot/bottle. There's a hint of Jimmie ('standing out there in the rain') and of Josephine (the ashtray flung at his head echoing 'he took a walk in the dark with a dish from the stand').

'A flimsy negligee, of innocence and feathers'. Who else, in the current line-up of lauded singer/songwriters, can even approach that? Who else, in the current line-up of lauded singer/songwriters, would dream of using the line 'can you confess her worth?' And don't get me started on 'the slant of time'. I have no idea what 'the slant of time' is. And yet, every time I hear this song (and start crying at the 'can you admit your love' line), I know exactly what it is.

It's effortless brilliance from start to finish, and, of course, the result of fifty years relentlessly plugging away at the art of song-writing. Perfectly crafted, perfectly executed, with a deft lightness of touch that should leave every listener - and every other singer/songwriter - open-mouthed in admiration.

PS I quite like it. :oops:"

I too, exceedingly. Perhaps its the opening bell note that incessantly and incandescently sounds throughout the song, no more poignantly than at the very end. Perhaps its the seemingly cruel 'slant of time' that bends and twists a narrator's thoughts about a past lover. Perhaps it is the skillfully seamless execution of word [play], melody, vocals and instrumentation. Perhaps it is aurally being in the presence of a master who has packed into some three minutes over forty plus years of enlarging and invigorating musical sophistication that comes from diligently practicing and perfecting his song craft. More likely it is a combination of all these components which make this song an event for my ears. The merging of the general with the specific, personal distress with general human nature observations is difficult to pull off. EC consistently manages this feat on this record. Song after song plays off the the emotions of a particular situation within the background of how we as humans, in general, deal with one another. The telescoping back in forth in time within the borders of a three minute pop song from specific to general is exhilarating.

Time and reverie are contemplated through a 'slanted' narrative. That bell like note painfully whips the emotions of the song's narrator as emotions move from disgust and anger and possible violence to a self-flagellation and self-loathing trip backwards when the narrator remembers having pulled off in a car leaving poor Isabelle alone on the sidewalk and not only dissolving in tears but washed in the falling rain. Time is relentless on this record; no more than in this song. I know Elvis reads poetry. He has stated so recently in a well done interview with an Italian journalist. I know that on his last record he liked to introduce another damaged character with the anecdote that the broken down vaudevillian of the song carried in his suitcase a certain poem. There are few Isabelles in poetry that I can recall but eerily the same poet who created the poem in that suitcase also created one about a young woman, with the same name, whose lover is murdered by her brothers and who upon finding his body manages to bury his head within the soil of a pot of basil which she jealously guards and regularly waters with her tears until her death. As I say, coincidence.

When will this songwriter get his master interpreter? I want a Stacy Kent or Greg Porter or Diane Reeves to step up. I have a friend on this board who has personally planted the idea of performing "Adieu Paris" with that Canadian Chanteuse, Jill Barber, at one of her recent shows. This cannot come soon enough. EC is in that master level of songwriters-he now consistently composes at a level reached previously by the Gershwins, Cole Porter, Irving Berlin, Rogers and Hart, Johnny Mercer or Jimmy Vanhusen. He deserves a master interpreter. The terror of a blank canvas, a sheet of blank paper or the blank staves and measures of a composition book is something I can only imagine. I do not presume to think he has such terror when he looks at a blank composition book, perhaps he does, but he singularly continues to fill his pages with notes and words that make up memorable songs like "Isabelle in Tears". I, too, 'quite like it' and its songwriter.
"....there's a merry song that starts in 'I' and ends in 'You', as many famous pop songs do....'

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Re: "Isabelle in Tears"- for whom does that bell, toll?........

Postby jardine » Wed Nov 14, 2018 10:15 am

I've said it before, I'll say it again, sometimes I really love this forum! so nice to have those who can unravel these songs in ways that make them even better. many thanks. now i'm even reading the title as if it is a question: "Is a belle in tears?" Yikes. this makes both the song and your post even more alluring.

geeeez. Isabelle of memory. does that ring a bell?

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