Top positive review
4 people found this helpful
worth buying for the live stuff but why not issue it separately?
on 31 May 2013
All that can be said about the original album here has been said many times over since its release in 1977 - if you've never heard it, you're in for a treat, it represents the sudden arrival in the spotlight of a very major new songwriter who, if not the world's greatest singer, had an absolutely compelling delivery and packed his debut full of very good to great songs that formed a whole even greater than the very considerable sum of their parts. It also stands slightly apart from all Costello's work over the next few years due to being recorded prior to the acquisition of his superb backing band, The Attractions - he was in fact backed by the then UK-based American country-rock band Clover, who subsequently evolved into Huey Lewis & The News, although Lewis himself doesn't appear on the album.
Now fans of Costello's work have been treated with considerable contempt by record companies over the years, with his early albums reissued numerous times, each with a partially different selection of bonus tracks. I previously had the 1993 version, which augmented the original album with, firstly, three tracks originally issued on singles and all present here, too - Watching The Detectives, Radio Sweetheart and Stranger In The House - the latter two of which were from the album sessions - and a selection of bedroom demos made by Costello before signing to Stiff, plus a solitary demo by his mid-70s band, Flip City. None of these early recordings are present here; instead, we get a further out-take from the album session (Living In Paradise) and an out-take from the Watching The Detectives session with Andrew Bodnar and Steve Goulding (No Action), both later re-recorded for his next album "This Year's Model" and interestingly described as "lost" in the sleeve notes to the 1993 version, plus no less than 8 solo demos recorded, like the album, at Pathway Studios in Islington and presumably part of the preparation for the final recording. I can take or leave this stuff, really - there are some otherwise unrecorded songs but overall this session pales beside the album proper.
And finally, on the second disc, is the earliest live recording of Elvis Costello & The Attractions so far issued. This was recorded shortly after the album's release at the beginning of a 5 week residency (one gig a week) at the late, lamented Nashville Room, one of London's premier pub venues of the time. They'd been touring for about 3 weeks at this point and it was about their 15th show together. The newness of the ensemble is audible in the rather rudimentary arrangements - Steve Nieve in particular improved hugely over the next few months - but the energy is palpable and Costello is on superb form vocally, absolutely razor sharp. As well as the complete show, there are also 5 songs recorded at the soundcheck, and with the exception of Alison none of them were played in the show. Between the show and the soundcheck, they play 11 of the 12 songs on My Aim Is True and 6 from the as yet unrecorded This Year's Model, plus a few more that all got recorded sooner or later or were already in the can, including Watching The Detectives. It's also worth pointing out that the two live tracks on the B-side of the original Watching The Detectives 45 (Blame It On Cain and Mystery Dance) were from this show, and this is the first time they've been reissued as far as I know.
It would have been great if, instead of forcing fans to shell out over and over for the original albums to acquire more and different bonus tracks (and this applies to plenty of other artists besides EC), someone had had the sense 20 or 25 years ago to put all the demos, out-takes etc. in a box set for the hardcore fans and issue the live shows individually - as they have done with some, although this seems to have stopped after a couple, unfortunately. But of course record companies mostly don't work like that, and worse still, Costello's early catalogue has changed hands at various times, with each new company understandably wanting to make a dollar out of it.
I can happily live without the demos, though they're good enough as far as they go, but the live show, despite The Attractions being at such an early stage of their evolution, makes this a very desirable package, and the mastering of the original album is exemplary.