Category: Elvis Costello

Elvis Costello – Taking Liberties

ARTIST: Elvis Costello 220px-ectl

TITLE:  Taking Liberties

YEAR RELEASED: Compilation

CHART ACTION: #28

SINGLES: Talking in the Dark

OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW:  Girls Talk, Big Tears, Radio Sweetheart, Clowntime is Over, Hoover Factory

LINEUP:  Elvis Costello, Steve Nieve, Pete Thomas, Bruce Thomas

WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: Clear the decks! A release of Costello’s b-sides, outtakes and songs dropped from the US version of albums released in 1980 makes its own artistic statement. 

SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: Elvis Costello’s early work the Attractions was so fertile that he was able to fill a 20-song record of songs that weren’t released on his US albums, and most of them were just as good as the songs that were on the records.

While it’s not a thematic album, like his regular releases, the quality and distinction of many of these tracks is undeniable. Artists would die to have a song like “Big Tears”, “Girls Talk” or “Radio Sweetheart” in their repertoire.

A few songs sound like first drafts of more famous songs, and probably did deserve B-side status. Again, though, that’s relative. This is an artist saying that he’s got a lot more in the tank than you’d realize.

NOTES & MINUTIAE: In the UK, he released a similar album called Ten Bloody Marys and Ten How’s Your Fathers, which had three UK singles that never wound up on UK albums.

IS THERE A DELUXE VERSION: No.

GRADE: A-: A treasure trove of Costello’s lesser known material.

Elvis Costello – Get Happy!!

ARTIST: Elvis Costello                        Elvis_Costello_-_Get_Happy!!

TITLE:  Get Happy!!

YEAR RELEASED: 1980

CHART ACTION: #11 US, #2 UK

SINGLES: I Can’t Stand Up for Falling Down (#4 UK), High Fidelity (#30 UK), New Amsterdam (#36)

OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW: Clowntime is Over, Black & White World, I Stand Accused

LINEUP: Elvis Costello, Steve Nieve, Bruce Thomas, Pete Thomas

WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: Costello crams 20 tracks onto an album that moves the Attractions to a more R&B sound. With so many tracks, there’s a few downers but most of it is great.

SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: The vast amount of music on this album makes it a great value. Costello and the Attractions go through their paces and record a boatload of mostly new songs in an R&B idiom. It’s like if Muscle Shoals transported to Europe in 1980.

The playing of the Attractions is top notch as usual. They had come off of a few tours and were well rehearsed and tight. The prolific Costello’s songs have depth and breadth.

With 20 cuts, some don’t totally hit the mark, but there are so many great songs here, and you’ll sing along to almost every one within a few plays.

NOTES & MINUTIAE: It was a regular album, not a double, and care had to be taken to make sure there was no loss of fidelity for a record having 10 tracks a side.

IS THERE A DELUXE VERSION: Yes. Each reissue has added b-sides, demos and live cuts.

GRADE: A: I thought about making it an A-, but the excellence outweighs the few okay cuts. It’s one case where quantity helps.

Elvis Costello – Armed Forces

ARTIST: Elvis Costello 220px-Elvis_costello_armed_forces_1
TITLE: Armed Forces
YEAR RELEASED: 1979
CHART ACTION: #10 US, #2 UK
SINGLES: Oliver’s Army (#2 UK), Accidents Will Happen (#28 UK, #101 US)
OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW: (What’s So Funny ‘Bout) Peace, Love and Understanding
LINEUP: Elvis Costello, Steve Nieve, Bruce Thomas, Pete Thomas
WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: Costello records a world-wide hit and continues his songwriting excellence.

SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: This album isn’t as good as This Years Model, but that being said, it’s damn good.220px-ElvisCostello_ArmedForces

Songs such as “Party Girl”, “Goon Squad” and “Green Shirt” as all excellent, as are the singles and the one everyone knows from MTV. The Attractions are fierce as always and Costello’s material and performance also excellent.

This was the first album to really get traction in the US, and the hooks of songs like “Oliver’s Army” are a big reason. But my favorite is “Party Girl” – I can see a movie being played out in my head when I hear that song.

NOTES & MINUTIAE: “(What’s So Funny About) Peace, Love and Understanding” was written by Nick Lowe and originally done by Brinsley Schwarz in 1974. This version was recorded as a B-side to a Lowe single (!) before it took a life of its own. It wasn’t on the UK album but was quickly added to the US version.

IS THERE A DELUXE VERSION: Yes, two deluxe editions with B-sides and live cuts.

GRADE: A: Not quite perfection, but still a must have in a library.

Elvis Costello – This Year’s Model

ARTIST: Elvis Costello Elvis-Costello-This-Years-Model
TITLE: This Year’s Model
YEAR RELEASED: 1978
CHART ACTION: #30 US, #4 UK
SINGLES: (I Don’t Want to Go to) Chelsea (#16 UK), Pump It Up (#24 UK), Radio Radio (#29 UK)
OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW: This Year’s Girl, The Beat
LINEUP: Elvis Costello, Steve Nieve, Bruce Thomas, Pete Thomas
WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: The Attractions back Costello on record for the first time and the result is one of THOSE albums that you play over and over again.

SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: Costello’s songs needed a solid, sympathetic and synergetic backing group. The Attractions fit that to a “T” and then some. Nieve’s keyboards and Bruce Thomas’ bass add a great amount of color to each song. Pete Thomas’s solid drumming gives Nieve and Bruce Thomas space to explore the songs. They can be furious and flame throwing, and also gentle to fit Costello’s ballads.

The bass playing of Bruce Thomas is brilliant. He creates his own counter-melodies without interfering with the songs and interplays quite well with the guitar of Costello and keyboards of Nieve.

Costello’s songs on this album are all classics. There’s no weak link, and more importantly, you never get tired of them. They sound just as strong and powerful on the 1,000th play as the first.

NOTES & MINUTIAE: Thanks to the US record company, we originally didn’t get Chelsea or Night Rally on the original release over here. We did get Radio, Radio. When this record was released on CD everyone got all three songs – so it became a great 13 song album ending with Radio, Radio.

IS THERE A DELUXE VERSION: Every time Costello’s stuff is released, the b-sides and demos are attached to the record. I’ve decided that I’ll review those with Taking Liberties, if they show up there.

GRADE: A+: I can play this record over and over again on the same day. I don’t say that with many albums. I always discover something to focus on.

Elvis Costello – My Aim Is True

ARTIST: Elvis Costello       MyAim_isTrue

TITLE: My Aim Is True

YEAR RELEASED: 1977

CHART ACTION: #32 US, #14 UK

SINGLES: Less Than Zero, Alison, (The Angels Wanna Wear My) Red Shoes, Watching the Detectives (#15 UK, #108 US)

OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW: Mystery Dance

LINEUP: Elvis Costello, John McFee, Sean Hopper, Johnny Ciambotti, Mickey Shine

WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: “Angry young man” comes out of nowhere (actually someone whose been at this for four years or so in various groups with no success) and records a blistering set of tunes while being backed by a US band (Clover) on its last legs.

 

SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: Declan McManus, ex of Rusty and Flip City, changed his name to Elvis Costello, hooked up with some sympathetic folks at Stiff Records (Nick Lowe, Dave Robinson, Jake Rivera), recorded his songs mainly as a demo to be a songwriter and started the career of one of the best and eclectic songwriters of our era.

Most of these songs are familiar to those of us who lived in the New Wave / Punk first wave. However, what’s most surprising is how well the resonated without the Attractions as his backing band. Clover was a San Francisco based band in the UK on their last gasp (they actually would morph into Huey Lewis & the News after a while, and Mr. Lewis was not needed at the session since he was just harmonica player and singer for Clover) and while they play with competence, they don’t have the fire or passion that Attractions would later bring.

Still, the record’s a very compelling listen even if you nothing of UK politics circa 1977 or if you hear Alison one more time you’ll scream!

 

NOTES & MINUTAE: The US version appended Watching the Detectives after that was released and got some airplay on hipper stations.

IS THERE A DELUXE VERSION:  Several. This has been re-released at least three times with various demos, etc. The current one streaming has a show in Nashville from 1977 with the Attractions that burns through a lot of Costello’s early work.
GRADE: A-: Great songs, but the Attractions are missed