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4.1 out of 5 stars
18
4.1 out of 5 stars
Spike: THE BELOVED ENTERTAINER
Format: Audio CD|Change
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on 5 May 2017
Love this, 'Tramp the dirt down' a classic.
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on 6 August 2015
A truely excellent album, from an artist 'par excellance' - reissued & expanded. A welcome addition. Delivered in great time too. Thank you.
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on 20 October 2014
When you know the circumstances of Spike's creation it is a lot easier to understand why this hour-plus album is such a diffuse sprawl. Costello's first new album after an uncharacteristically long two-year layoff, his first album for a new label, this 1989 Warner Bros LP was recorded in Hollywood, New Orleans, Dublin, and London, and was created with the aid of a distinguished, and eclectic, list of musicians that included: the Dirty Dozen Brass Band; T Bone Burnett; Paul McCartney; Chrissie Hynde; Allen Toussaint; Roger McGuinn; Tom Waits' guitarist Marc Ribot, and some of Ireland's finest traditional musicians players including Christy Moore. Given those set of circumstances, it is also unsurprising that the results of that adventurousness are variable. His hit single 'Veronica' - a co-write with McCartney -, the storming, swearing opener 'This Town', fiery, and folky, anti-Thatcher lament 'Tramp The Dirt Down', and an odd standalone - the finger-clicking, jazz-y instrumental 'Stalin Malone' - are amongst the very best things in his voluminous back catalogue.

But Costello - who mockingly bills himself as "The Beloved Entertainer" on the garish tartan check sleeve - struggles to maintain that level of performance across the piece. As Barney Hoskyns has suggested many of songs were "too artful by half, with knotty arrangements that belied an absence of memorable music". His point is proven by 'Let Him Dangle', the cumbersomely-arranged, but well-intentioned, polemic against capital punishment, and the fragmentary 'God's Comic', which has little else to recommend itself other than the delivery of a cracking punchline, when Costello imagines The Big Man passing judgement on Jesus Christ Superstar composer Andrew Lloyd Webber's Requiem. Elsewhere, 'Pads, Paws And Claws' - his other effort with the ex-Beatle - is a meandering rockabilly tune overburdened by laboured puns, and the incongruous 'Chewing Gum' is a self-indulgent stab at funk that is too heavy for Costello's reedy vocals.

Less focussed than his two 1986 albums - the critically-acclaimed King Of America: The Costello Show and the often overlooked Blood And Chocolate - Spike is highly unlikely to change the opinions of the unconverted towards him, but it shows he still had his moments, even if interest in his work had steadily declined as the 1980s had progressed.
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on 19 March 2002
Those of us familiar with Costello's later oeuvre might be forgiven for thinking that he'd shot his bolt a long time ago. Even back in '89, when 'Spike' was first released, he'd already gained an unenviable reputation for bitter rants made up of overwrought lyrics coupled with disaffecting tunes. This album was therefore greeted on its release with a mixture of trepidation and indifference.
I'd formed much the same impression myself, until I heard 'Spike'. On this album, probably his best ever, he hardly puts a foot wrong. For once, lyrics and music mesh to lasting effect: from the chimingly tuneful rabble-rousing of 'This Town', through the bittersweet lament for lost youth that is 'Veronica', to the sugared vitriol of 'Tramp the Dirt Down', no word is wasted, no tune seems knocked together as an afterthought.
A glimpse of the old Costello, who would have picked a fight with the whole of Oliver's Army (and won), 'Spike' drives the point home.
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on 9 October 2009
Don't want to upset anyone who really likes this album (which its first two reviewers clearly do...), but this really isn't EC's finest. It sorely lacks the pithy lyrical economy of his earlier work, and it's horribly, horribly over-produced. There *are* some killer moments (Tramp The Dirt Down, Veronica), but I'd challenge anyone to hum more than 3 of the album's tunes - or remember more than a dozen lines of lyrics - even after three or four listens. Any EC virgins, go back a few years and try out Punch The Clock or My Aim Is True first... and if you develop a taste for what you hear, come back and pick up Spike to finish your collection.
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on 7 February 2004
Contrary to popular belief, this is not Costello's first self-indulgent implosion as a recording artist, in the same way that it is also NOT a diversion into mediocrity that would continue throughout the albums that followed. This is the next step for a man whose two previous records had demonstrated both a deft understanding of the conventions of country music and pared down instrumentation (King of America) as well as purging himself of inner-torment and marital frustration with an intense sound that fused punk-rock aggression with post-punk noise (Blood & Chocolate). Every Costello album had had, up to this point, some kind of central theme or ideology, but SPIKE (his first album for Warner bros.) was the first time that we we're able to see Costello's eclectic sense of musical experimentation in full swing... as he tries to make five different albums at once, whilst in the process, creating a record that has something for everyone. The depth of Costello's song-writing ability is in full tilt here, as he creates a schizophrenic fusion of all his previous works - giving us varying elements that would suggest a split personality that is equally mirrored in the wonderful cover art - as we see elements of Elvis the pop star, Elvis the bandleader, Elvis the rocker, Elvis the protest singer and finally, Elvis the record producer given equal moments to shine.
The album was recorded in both Dublin and New Orleans, a factor that gives SPIKE an even more schizophrenic sound, with celebrated instrumentalists the Dirty Dozen Brass Band found playing along side segregated members of the Dubliners and the Chieftains; whilst there are also guest appearances from Christy Moore, Chrissie Hind and Paul McCartney, who co-wrote the biggest hit to stem from the record, the infectious and affecting Veronica. This track is just one example of Costello's newly developed sense of lyrical extremity, as he shifts his attention from social causes (Let him Dangle is about the famous wrongful execution of alleged murderer Derek Bentley), to political concerns (lamenting Margaret Thatcher on the honest and deeply controversial Tramp the Dirt Down) whilst also crafting a few diverse variations on the theme of love (Satellite is a very-80's style pop song/duet with the aforementioned Pretender, whilst Baby Plays Around is a heartbreaking, folk-infused number penned by Elvis and his then-wife Cait O'Riordan of the Pogues). There are also attempts to create a more music-hall style that mixes elements of rock opera with baroque-pop, as Costello first parodies Andrew Lloyd Webber on the excellent God's Comic (some of his best lyrics!) before taking things a step further with the more experimental and conceptually rounded Miss Mac Beth.
It is this fusion of pop & rock influences pared alongside more classical, or leftfield observations that would point the way forward to 1993's stunning experiment with the Brodsky Quartet, the Juliet Letters (still one of the most underrated records of the last decade) as well as the more immediate pop follow up, Mighty Like a Rose. The instrumentation is layered in a way that only Imperial Bedroom could match in terms of Costello's back catalogue, with the added session musicians/guest stars bringing a wonderful atmosphere to the already superbly written compositions... the demons of which can be found on the bonus disk to this stunning re-issue. The linear notes of the CD booklet are once again penned by Costello himself, who reflects upon the issues caused with the move to a new record label, and the benefits of working with not one, but two of the most skilful producers of the last twenty years (now-regular collaborators T-Bone Burnett and Kevin Killen). The quality of the re-production of the music, the rarities of the bonus disk and the Costello's always fascinating notes make this an essential update if you've only experienced the original Warner's release from 1989.
SPIKE is without a doubt one of the true original rock records of the 1980's, up there with the likes of Don't Stand Me Down, Second Edition, Rum Sodomy & the Lash, and Costello's own must-have Imperial Bedroom... this should be an essential purchase for every true lover of music!
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on 9 July 2012
Elvis has made a lot of good albums, but this is one of the best. From Tramp the Dirt Down to lesser known song such as Satellites, it is full of gems. Brilliant.
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on 30 November 2010
I have got loads of Elvis albums but somehow missed this one. I was looking to find out where the excellent anti-Thatcher song "Tramp the dirt down " came from and discovered Spike.
It is Mr Costello at his best. I would highly recommend it. A real treasure.
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on 16 August 2013
I bought this when it first came out, and loved it then. Being a car crooner, I need good songs to sing badly to where nobody can hear me. Now I have it on CD, I can let myself go to Let Him Dangle, and Miss MacBeth just like the old days. I'd forgotten what I was missing.
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on 17 July 2015
One of his best albums particularly his anti-thatcher track. Does he still want to 'tramp the dirt down'?
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