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4.8 out of 5 stars
The Very Best Of Elvis Costello
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32 of 33 people found the following review helpful
VINE VOICEon 9 January 2004
This album serves as one of the best 'career-encompassing' compilations of them all. As such, it's the perfect album to buy if you don't want to commit yourself to buying his entire back catalogue. You will be treated to the highlights of Elvis Costello's wildly varied and brilliant musical career, even if many other lesser known highlights are omitted in favour of his most successful and popular tunes.
Ranging from the punk-spirited classics from the late 70's such as the seemingly omnipresent 'Oliver's Army', and 'Watching The Detectives', we then follow Elvis through the slightly less energetic early eighties, with laid-back ballads like 'Good Year For The Roses' and the absolutely outstanding 'New Amsterdam' and the anti-Falklands protest song 'Shipbuilding'.
Then comes the late-80's, early 90's era, (known as 'The Beard Years') where Elvis gets a bit arty on us, but yet still managed to produce music of the highest calibre, even if he was possibly taking himself a bit seriously at the time. A good example of a lesser known track from this era is present here, namely 'Tramp The Dirt Down' (from 'Spike'), with it's celtic instrumentation and scathingly brutal lyric (aimed at Margaret Thatcher), it's a brilliant song that proved that the angry young man inside him was still very much alive and able to express himself most eloquently. Another song from Spike to appear on this album is 'Veronica', a brilliantly lively song that deals with the issue of dementia in a way that no other artist could possibly have achieved. Co-written by fellow scouser Sir Paul McCartney, this is pop musicality of the highest order, and if you remember it as a single that you might have not paid much attention to at the time, now is your chance to have a second listen.
We're brought (nearly) up to date with Elvis's return to his 'back-to-basics' rock ensemble with the track 'Sulky Girl', recorded with The Attractions. Also included is his hit single 'She' from the Notting Hill soundtrack, which is one of the less 'essential' tracks on the album (and possibly shouldn't be here at all).
For me, the joy of this album is the sheer brilliance of Elvis Costello's songcraft, rivalled only by the very best in the business. His lyrics are always meaningful, fascinating, intellegent, thought-provoking, at times controversial, and always extremely entertaining. If you don't like this album, you don't like music, period.
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14 of 15 people found the following review helpful
on 9 May 2000
What can you say about Elvis Costello that hasn't already been said? This man is pure class. His songwriting genius is all too evident on this well structured compilation. Elvis Costello is undoubtedly one of the finest (though sadly under-rated) songwriters to come out of Britain. In my humble opinion, his songwriting skills rank up there with Britain's finest - Beatles, Bowie, Sting et al. If you're new to the man and his music, this is an excellent starting point as you get all the classic hits plus a few other gems and lesser-known (but still superb) tracks too. If you like this CD, do yourself a favour and visit the US Amazon site (Amazon.com) and order yourself a copy of the 4 x CD box set, 2 1/2 Years. This box set is now (sadly) deleted in the UK - it features Elvis's first three albums plus a great live CD. Well worth every penny. If you're a Costello fan and you don't already own the box set, get on and order it! The not-available-elsewhere Live At El Mocambo CD is worth the price alone. Also, hats off to whoever handled the digital remastering of Elvis's back catalogue - the sound is really vibrant and warm, unlike a lot of cold, tiresome digital remasters.
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25 of 27 people found the following review helpful
on 21 February 2002
I've just bought this double CD from Amazon on the grounds that I haven't heard any better song writing on the radio, ever, than those in Mr Costello's collection - and I was not disappointed. He's got the knack of combining a good tune and exactly-the-right-word-in-exactly-the-right-place lyric-writing, if you see what I mean. Notwithstanding one or two of the best songs are older than I am (and let's face it plenty of good music is a lot older than my tender 24 years), this is a worthy, worthy purchase. Except I have not been able to stop singing Oliver's Army for the best part of 48 hours, that's the price you pay I guess!
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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
on 7 September 2004
Almost definitive and should therefore grace and enhance every Britpop devotee's collection. Elvis always excelled at politics (emotional and party)and his incisive and literate ideology is well represented here with "Pills and Soap," "Shipbuilding," "Oliver's Army" and "Tramp The Dirt Down" savaging Seventies and Eighties Conservativism/Fascism and tracks such as "Sulky Girl," "Watching The Detectives," "Man Out Of Time," "Indoor Fireworks" and "I Want You" (always the creepiest of psychosexual love songs) addressing the emotional aspects in a completely individual and unique way. Elsewhere, the sublime jab in the eye to BBC Radio Controllers and their often childlike censorship policies executed by "Radio Radio" never ceases to delight and amuse. The transcendent "Alison," the jangly power pop blueprint of "Accidents Will Happen" and the racous philosophical rabbit punching of "Tokyo Storm Warning" illustrate just how subversive, meaningful and downright joyous pop music can be. Personally, I miss the inclusion of a few tracks, favourites from the back catalogue, but these type of compilations will never please everyone completely. This one comes very close, though. There is still a whole world of Costello stuff to explore out there and hopefully this collection will act as an introduction for many and worthy addition to the archives of the faithful. Some say he's an acquired taste as an artist - I would say he's an essential one.
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10 of 12 people found the following review helpful
on 20 February 2004
How often are you disappointed with an album that professes to be the 'very best' of an artist because it is too short, or misses great tracks, or for a plethora of other reasons. Record companies really don't seem to have consumers best interests at heart most of the time, but in this case, they have got it spot on!
I can't fault this collection of great songs from one of Britains best singer/songwriters. There is a little of everything here, spanning a career of decades and numerous musical styles. Early classics such as 'Oliver's Army' and 'Watching the Detectives' appear at the beginning of this album, and it then runs through all of his reinventions, such as the country music of 'Good Year for the Roses', all the way to 'She', recorded for the Notting Hill soundtrack.
Liverpool is rightly proud of it's four famous sons who changed the world, but they should be equally as proud of Declan Aloysius McManus for his oustanding musical career.
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24 of 29 people found the following review helpful
on 28 August 2004
I'm not criticising the music. I rate Costello as one of the greatest songwriters and performers of the last fifty years and almost all of his records offer something special to the listener. My problem is with this new best of compilation. Such a thing is important when we're dealing with an artist as prolific and idiosyncratic as Costello, especially as it gives new fans the chance to par-take of lesser-known songs alongside the bigger hits, acting as both a great introduction to the artist and as a retrospective analysis of their career. However, despite the quality of this collection, one is unable to overlook the fact that the track listing is identical to the previous best of released by Polygram (Universal) in 1999... making this more a cynical re-packaged attempt to make money than a product designed to further Costello's profile and/or add to the works that were missing from that initial release.
The songs as they stand do offer us the best, and the compilers of the original collection (not sure if Costello was involved!) should be commended for culling together a great cross-reference from Elvis' greatly diverse and often stylistically jaw-dropping albums, from the early new-wave sound of This Year's Model tracks, to the Sgt Pepper style of Imperial Bedroom, onto the industrial rock of Blood & Chocolate, the country of King of America, the wild experiments of Spike and the ballads of All This Useless Beauty. Tracks like Alison, Oliver's Army, Radio-Radio, Everyday I Write the Book, Shipbuilding, Man Out of Time and I Want to Vanish really do show Costello at his absolute best... but there could have been so much more! Because the initial collection was released in 1999, it was naturally devoid of tracks from Costello's recent albums, 2002's When I Was Cruel and last year's classic North. So, why didn't we get great songs like Tart, Alibi, Episode of Blonde, When I Was Cruel #2, Someone Took the Words Away, Fallen, Still and When Green Eyes Turn Blue added to this collection?
An update of the old track listing would have seemed the natural choice to me... and would have justified the existence of another Costello Best of so soon after the last one. What with the more recent songs listed above, not to mention the compositions from his collaboration with the Brodsky Quartet (tracks like Swine, I Almost Had a Weakness, Taking My Life in Your Hands, Jacksons Monk & Rowe, This Sad Burlesque and The Birds Will Still be Singing) and various Costello penned tracks from that Anne Sophie von Otter album, For the Stars, there would have easily been enough material for a third disk!! There are also the songs that could have been taken from the Cruel Smile E.P or what about some of those great B-sides that turn up on those endless Costello re-issues? This collection may be of interest as a budget-primer for those discovering Costello for the first time, but for me, it seems more like a mocking attempt to shift units so that Costello's publishers can make some money off the back of his old hits.
I for one, personally, would have preferred the release of an all-inclusive Elvis Costello box set (like the Cure's Join the Dots from earlier this year), as opposed to yet another re-packaged Best of with the same old generic hits.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on 5 October 2010
Having seen Elvis Costello play live in Birmingham around the time of Oliver's Army and been wiped out by the music, the lyrics, the politics and the cutting social comment, I still come back over and over to this collection and find something new each time. Sometimes it's the clever wordplay, sometimes the hidden messages and sometimes looking for Elvis' little links to songs by The Supremes that he buries here and there.

All expense spared
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10 of 12 people found the following review helpful
on 5 November 2002
And that, my dears, is truly all you need to know.
One of Britains greatest songwriters. Far exceeding anything by Lennon/McCartney IMHO.
Here we have a small insight into this mans work. Trust me on this, his canvas is broader than this collection could ever hope to encapsulate, but it is a rollicking good couple of hours.
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
on 20 September 2003
As the title of this review suggests, this really is a must. It's worth buying even if you have all the tracks on the original albums. This double CD includes all Costello's singles and other stuff. The highlights of this album are the tracks 'Shipbuilding' and 'Tramp the dirt down'. You wont get bored with this CD, the music sounds as fresh as it did when it was first released.
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
First off Costello is NOT the Cockney Dylan-he may have been born in London but was baptised in Birkenhead where his real roots are.
Neither is he better than the other Elvis-this is not a valid comparison and as he's really Decan Macmanus the name Elvis was bestowed on him because of the power of it-Costello was his grandmothers name (the one immortalised in Veronica)
Unlike his namesake he was never restricted to what he was allowed to sing.
Obviously more intelligent than Elvis Presley ever was he wrote many of his own songs -his namesake never wrote anything same as Little Richard or Phil Spector.
Looking back at the 70s you see just 2 names who could be regarded as representative-Elton John and Elvis Costello
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