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Elvis shifts the tempo
James O'Mara Elvis Costello says no more recording

Elvis Costello will not record another album. The bespectacled rock legend has declared that 2010's National Ransom, his 32nd album, is his last.

"I feel that I'm in a transition right now," the 58-year-old says. "The way the business of music is set up, I can justify my time away from the family playing concerts better than being in the studio."

Costello has also put on hold any further episodes of his high-rating TV chat show Spectacle, which recently screened in Australia on the ABC. In the first two series he interviewed and played with the likes of Bruce Springsteen, Sir Elton John, Lou Reed and Tony Bennett.

"Like recording, we could come back to that idea," he says.

Now high on the list of his priorities is being a father to twin boys Dexter and Frank, who are nearing school age. He's been married for the past nine years to the platinum-selling Canadian jazz pianist and singer Diana Krall, who also spends plenty of time on tour.

On top of all that he had to cancel concerts at the end of last year when his father died. "It's been very challenging. My time is divided a little differently to what it was just a while ago."

Fortunately, the singer-songwriter is still releasing new music.

"I have a song that's being issued this week that I contributed to a TV show and somebody asked me a couple of days ago if I'd sing on something of theirs. Last weekend I did a concert in San Francisco with the Preservation Hall Band and I performed a song I wrote with (Californian folk-rocker) Robert Hunter a year ago. Those things don't have to be an album. I can keep some things for special occasions."

Costello was recently in the studio when his wife recorded her latest album, Glad Rag Doll. Asked to play a bit of ukulele on one track he ended up playing guitar, mandolin and doing backing singing. "I'm really only on a couple of songs," he says modestly. "I really wasn't needed with the great band she had.

"I got a great kick out of being there and playing those small parts. I got to see the joy she was having doing it. There couldn't be anything more thrilling and sexy than seeing the woman you love doing something that she's dreamt about and then saw it through all the way."

In a career spanning more than 35 years, the British rock icon has graduated from pub rock to punk, from new wave to jazz, piano ballads, chamber music, opera, country and back to rock again. Along the way he's collaborated with pop maestros Burt Bacharach and Paul McCartney, Solomon Burke, Allen Toussaint, the Brodsky Quartet and Swedish mezzo-soprano Anne Sofie von Otter.

Last month he attended the star-studded private memorial for lyricist Hal David, where he performed a moving version of I Just Don't Know What To Do With Myself. "People call that music 'easy listening', but there's nothing easy about it," Costello says. "If it was easy, everybody would be writing and singing it."

The Watching the Detectives singer's coming tour includes a Kings Park date on February 6. The visit will be his fourth Down Under with the Imposters, his band featuring keyboard player Steve Nieve and drummer Pete Thomas - both former members of the Attractions - along with bassist Davey Faragher, who has been with him for 10 years.

With a back catalogue of some 400 songs, the prolific songwriter likes to shoehorn as many as possible into his shows. Making its first appearance in Australia on this tour is his gigantic vaudevillian game-show wheel, the Spectacular Spinning Songbook, that will only appear in Melbourne and Sydney.

The set includes a go-go cage, a "society lounge" that serves red and blue drinks and involves audience participation.

"Well, one of the reasons we can't do this in Perth is because we'd need to send a Viking longboat to ferry the people across the water at the front of the stage at Kings Park," Costello jokes, "and that'd slow things down."