A friend of mine bought this album shortly after its 1977 issue and thereafter collected everything that Elvis Costello released, usually as each item came out. At first, I was fed up of hearing him, but, gradually, he won me over. The size of this reissue is bewildering, given that the original album was barely half an hour long. It came in a low budget package, with Costello backed by American band Clover. The sound was effective, if basic. Costello was no guitar hero, but the album is instead bolstered by superb, yet unintrusive backing vocal harmonies.
The songs are the stars. Costello established a reputation for biting wit, prodding a question at each subject he tackled. Most of the tracks are mid to above average tempo, usually beaty. Though Costello was labelled, like every unfamiliar face at that time, as a punk at first, he clearly wasn't in any existing camp other than that of the songwriter. The most commercial songs here are 'Red Shoes,' the fast 'Mystery Dance' and 'I'm Not Angry,' which features a rare burst of searing guitar. It was the poignant 'Alison,' however, that gained most attention, particularly when Linda Ronstadt covered it.
I disagree with the previous reviewer that 'Blame It On Cain' and 'Sneaky Feelings' are makeweights. There isn't a single track here that deserves dropping. Some people still feel that this is his best album of songs. The bonus tracks rather highlight this, as most aren't on the same plane. 'Watching The Detectives,' the stand-alone single that followed and broke Costello to a wider UK audience, is a notable exception. This album, though, is worth having for the original line-up alone.