Ever since I first saw Elvis Costello in 1977 I've thought the Attractions were one of the all time great backing bands - not that there'd have been much point without Costello and his many excellent songs - and this CD doesn't alter that perception at all.
It expands on - and borrows the sleeve design from - the 3 track live EP that was given away with early pressings of Armed Forces six months later; more tracks have found their way onto later reissues of Armed Forces but this complete recording of the Hollywood High concert on 4 June 1978 includes 11 that have never been issued before. There are no sleeve notes.
Vocally, Costello is on extremely fine form; it's a spirited and very live-sounding performance with a good selection of songs, including most of This Year's Model and 3 from the yet-to-be-recorded Armed Forces. The recording is good in terms of clarity, but it sounds like it was recorded directly off the PA without any further mixing, though the audience is far from inaudible. The sound is dominated by Steve Nieve's organ: whether deliberately or not, the guitar is very low in the mix most of the time and at times this does detract slightly from the enjoyment of the performance; this is particularly relevant on songs such as You Belong To Me. The bass isn't that loud either - a shame given Bruce Thomas is one of the finest bassists on the planet. The earlier songs, originally recorded with Clover, sound very different played by The Attractions, especially the single B-side Stranger In The House, which almost totally loses its country feel.
For fans of early Elvis Costello, and particularly of the Attractions, this is an essential and very welcome release, particularly as it is second of a series (the first volume was Live at El Mocambo, previously only available as part of a 1993 box set). I hope there will be further releases in this series, recordings from the Armed Forces and Get Happy tours with better sound balance would be nice. But this will do nicely for starters.