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This Years Model
This Years Model

21 of 23 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Great album, frustrating reissue, 25 Feb. 2002
This review is from: This Years Model (Audio CD)
The new Costello reissues are proving to be a mixed blessing for me. Of the twelve tracks on the bonus disc here, five were on the earlier Demon reissue and the other seven are interesting but nothing special.
None of the alternate versions of album tracks are particularly successful and only really show how great the final versions are. The live versions of Neat, Neat, Neat and Roadette Song are poorly recorded and hardly essential performances, despite the historical interest.
Added to this, the bonus disc is only 36 minutes long, so the whole thing could have put on one CD!
This is particularly irritating as the album sounds great and the booklet is immaculate, with excellent liner notes and all the lyrics.
If you've never heard this album, I'd strongly recommend it, especially if you're feeling particuarly irritable today. If you're looking to replace your Demon reissue, proceed with caution... but you know you're going to buy it anyway.

All This Useless Beauty
All This Useless Beauty
Offered by EliteDigital UK
Price: £21.98

14 of 14 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A very underrated album, 4 Sept. 2001
This review is from: All This Useless Beauty (Audio CD)
All This Useless Beauty is a very fine record with many great Costello songs, despite the fact that it sold poorly at the time. It's also often compared unfavourably to other albums in Costello's catalogue. It may not include the rage and venom of early Costello, or the variety of his late 80s/early 90s work, but it reveals a more refined side to Elvis and the Attractions.
The album is full of thoughtful, resigned songs such as All This Useless Beauty, Poor Fractured Atlas and I Want To Vanish, which I consider to be among the Attractions' greatest performances. Costello's lyrics are finely balanced and his voice is also excellent, pointing to the balladeer pose he's taken up in recent years.
There are rockier moments such as Complicated Shadows and It's Time but generally it's an album of songs 'that I couldn't have written at 22', as Costello put it. It might not impress you if you're a big This Year's Model fan but I'm pleased Costello chose to re-release it with My Aim Is True; it deserves to have a similar reputation.
The bonus disc also has some great tracks on it such as My Dark Life and Almost Ideal Eyes. The demos are interesting, with It's Time and Complicated Shadows being very different stylistically, but they're not really worth too many repeat plays.
In fact, the reissue is slightly frustrating for the completist; Costello has attempted to make the bonus disc a companion to All This Useless Beauty with a few tracks that fit conceptually (the demos of The Comedians and Only Flame In Town) but really have nothing to do with the album. There are a number of B-sides from this era that are not included on the reissue and will remain obscure.

Rings Around the World
Rings Around the World
Offered by westworld-
Price: £9.98

5.0 out of 5 stars The album is superb; not sure about the DVD, 23 July 2001
This review is from: Rings Around the World (Audio CD)
Some reviewers seem to be putting this album down because the videos on the DVD don't really add anything to the album. I haven't seen the DVD, but the album alone is easily the best I've heard this year.
A few tracks take a couple of listens to appreciate; I dismissed Rings Around The World and Receptacle For The Respectable at first but they get better as time goes on.
I thought Guerrilla failed as a big pop album because it didn't hang together too well, despite the excellence of individual tracks. All the same elements of Guerrilla are on Rings Around The World but the songs form a cohesive whole; each track adds to the effect of the album rather than distracting from it.
Rings Around The World is almost as adventurous as Kid A/Amnesiac in some ways. Luckily, SFA remembered to fill up the madness with some of the best pop tunes of the year.

Secret Life of Plants
Secret Life of Plants

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Not for everyone but still great, 8 Mar. 2001
This review is from: Secret Life of Plants (Audio CD)
This album is a world away from Stevie's early 70s work, which is wholeheartedly recommended. I'm sure it would have worked wonderfully as a soundtrack to the Secret Life of Plants documentary, but as an album it's a very bizarre experience.
Many of the tracks are detailed, evocative instrumentals, mostly built up using synthesizers. Some of them work beautifully but too many of them drag on too long. The songs are pleasant but not as inspired as Stevie's earlier work, although there are a few classics if you can get past the clumsy eco-friendly lyrics.
If you have Stevie's earlier work and go in with an open mind, you'll probably get a lot out of this. However, this is not the place to start; try Talking Book instead.
The great tragedy is that this was the last time Stevie gave free rein to his artistic impulses; this album didn't sell half as well as Motown wanted and they forced Stevie to rush release an album of hits (Hotter Than July) the following year. Since then he's been torn between producing great, artistic music like this and AOR mush, satisfying no-one. What a shame.

For The Stars
For The Stars
Offered by westworld-
Price: £12.00

0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Some great songs here, 8 Mar. 2001
This review is from: For The Stars (Audio CD)
I have no idea if this is worth 5 stars - just wanted to balance out the one... I've never heard Anne Sofie Von Otter sing but I'm a big Elvis Costello fan and the songs they've chosen for this project are among my very favourites. Baby Plays Around, I Want To Vanish and This House Is Empty Now are, in my opinion, the very best Costello ballads and the other choices, such as Junk by Paul McCartney, Take It With Me by Tom Waits and the Pet Sounds tracks are incredible songs. I apologise for reviewing something I haven't heard but I really hope such talented people can't mess up material as fine as this.

Virgin All-time Top 1000 Albums
Virgin All-time Top 1000 Albums
by Colin Larkin
Edition: Paperback

7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Useful reference, 10 Jan. 2001
I got this book as a present after deciding not to buy it - it seemed like a very gimmicky idea and the rankings just didn't interest me. However, once I ignored the 'What's the best album in the world?' tag, the book became a very useful reference.
Firstly, it's an interesting barometer of taste - over 200,000 votes were counted, as well as all music polls from the last 25 years, and, although there is a lot of big-selling MOR scattered about, there are also a large number of very interesting albums, many of which I had never heard of. The previous positions from earlier editions of the book are included, and it's amazing to see what a difference Britpop has made to public opinion of all kinds of different music.
Secondly, it provides a rough but handy buyer's guide; it's very easy to find out what is the 'best' (ie most well known) album by a particular artist and many artists have a few albums, if not their whole catalogue, somewhere in the 1000.
Finally, there's a fair amount of data on each album; peak chart positions, covers and track listings, making it easy to find a certain track or to find the album in the shops.
The only thing letting the book down occasionally is Colin Larkin's reviews; the short 100 word pieces don't really tell you much about the albums. Plus, by his own admission, he has become a bit of a curmudgeon and, while the earlier reviews are pretty reasonable, by the last 200 albums he often struggles to keep his patience and objectivity.

Song and Dance Man III: The Art of Bob Dylan
Song and Dance Man III: The Art of Bob Dylan
by Michael Gray
Edition: Paperback

6 of 8 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Impressive but needs a working knowledge of Dylan, 30 Oct. 2000
I bought this book to gain an insight into Dylan's work, having only recently purchased the albums, and got much more than I bargained for. Gray seems to assume a large amount of familiarity with the material and a general understanding of Dylan's work to begin with, and I believe this accounts for the discrepancy between the 1 and 5 star reviews here. The detailed and interesting insights into Dylan's use of literary, blues and religious influences, among many others, would probably greatly enrich my experiences with Dylan if I understood the basic intentions of many of the songs in the first place; as I often find it difficult to penetrate a lot of the songs, much of this book is fairly unreadable.
Also, while the earlier chapters are fairly concise and well written, Gray's eminence as a Dylan authority seems to have gone to his head a little, and the new chapters are bloated and much more personal than the ones in the previous versions of the book. There are large chapters on individual songs from the '80s such as Jokerman and Blind Willie McTell which I find very difficult to get into, but perhaps if you had a thirty year familiarity with Dylan they would be much more interesting.
Basically, although this book may well be a superb study of Dylan's art, it seems to be much more suited to very serious Dylan fans rather than casual ones, which is perhaps indicated by its price tag.

Carl and the Passions "So Tough" / Holland
Carl and the Passions "So Tough" / Holland
Price: £11.91

1 of 23 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Not half as good as it's made out to be, 26 Oct. 2000
Well, these albums aren't really worth 1 star, I just thought I'd try and balance out a few of these five star reviews on here. If you're a die hard Beach Boys fan, it's probably worth getting these records; most of the pleasure of them comes from knowing that Carl and Dennis had really started to make some reasonable music and that Brain was at least still alive. The California Saga might well be Mike Love's finest hour, but any reasonable Beach Boys fan knows that that really says nothing.
If you don't know the Beach Boys at all, this really isn't the place to start; most of it sounds like subpar Eagles written by people who would never have got into a recording studio if they weren't riding on Brian Wilson's coattails. Get Pet Sounds first, or maybe even Today!/Summer Days & Summer Nights, and if you like them, you'll probably end up getting this someday.

Tom Waits: Blue Valentine
Tom Waits: Blue Valentine
by Ken Brooks
Edition: Paperback

18 of 18 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Awful, 9 Aug. 2000
This book is terrible - very badly written, with many grammatical errors and a very chatty style. The author makes some effort to examine Waits' influences and intentions but doesn't really get anywhere. The track by track analysis is more of a shopper's guide than an investigation into Waits' work and doesn't add anything to anyone who knows the songs except for the author's poor speculations, which as far as I can see have not been researched at all. The book is also laid out horribly as if it came straight off the wordprocessor and has a badly printed, school project style cover. Please avoid!

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