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Elvis Costello's debut (like much of his catalogue for the Seventies and Eighties) has been reissued to a point where fans will yawn and newcomers turn their eyes and ears elsewhere.

For this review I'm concentrating on the American 'Originals' CD Series put out by Universal's Hip-O Records in May 2007 (aka Hip-O Select) where eleven albums were Remastered to CD and presented in Artwork-Repro Digipaks with new booklets (most sans any bonus material – just the LP). The series started with the 1977 debut "My Aim Is True" and ran through to 1986's "Blood And Chocolate" (see list below). Here are the sneaky details and the original sins...

US released 1 May 2007 - "My Aim Is True" by ELVIS COSTELLO on Hip-O Records/Universal Music Company (UMC) B0008635-02 (Barcode 602517260863) is a 13-Track CD Remaster of the 1977 American LP on Columbia Records. The UK LP on Stiff Records had only 12-tracks ("Watching The Detectives" was originally only a 7" single in the UK) but was added to the end of Side 1 of the US LP (hence the 13-tracks). This CD Remaster plays out as follows (36:48 minutes):

1. Welcome To My Working Work
2. Miracle Man
3. No Dancing
4. Blame It On Cain
5. Alison
6. Sneaky Feelings
7. (The Angels Wanna Wear My) Red Shoes [Side 2]
8. Less Than Zero
9. Mystery Dance
10. Pay It Back
11. I'm Not Angry
12. Waiting For The End Of The World
13. Watching The Detectives
Tracks 1 to 12 are the UK debut LP "My Aim Is True" - released July 1977 in the UK on Stiff Records SEEZ 3. "Watching The Detectives" was issued October 1977 in the UK as a 7" single only (A-side) but was added on as an extra track (end of Side 1 after "Sneaky Feelings") on the March 1978 US reissue LP on Columbia Records JC 35037. Produced by NICK LOWE.

The Band for Tracks 1 to 12 were:
ELVIS COSTELLO - Lead and Backing Vocals, Guitars, Piano and Drumsticks on "Mystery Dance"
JOHN McFEE - Guitar and Pedal Steel
SEAN HOPPER - Piano, Organ, Backing Vocals
JOHNNY CIAMBOTTI - Bass and Backing Vocals
NICK LOWE - Backing Vocals, Bass, Drums and Drumsticks on "Mystery Dance"

Band for "Watching The Detectives" was:
ELVIS COSTELLO - Vocals and Guitar
STEVE NIEVE - Organ and Piano Overdubs

The 'Originals' card digipak is hardly anything to write home about and its glued-on Obi even obscures the track list on the rear cover (and the inner gatefold is simply all yellow - a bad waste of space). The 12-page booklet has all the lyrics - original album recording credits and reissue details - it's good but without any history of the album and its making it's hardly great. The Remaster was carried out by Rhino's longtime Audio Engineer DAN HERSCH and is a mixed bag of brill and brash.

Production wise "My Aim Is True" the LP has always felt a bit 'all over the place'. The Remaster reflects the source material. Some tracks have stunning clarity while others just feel wrong and I'd have to say that this Remaster has only highlighted 'both'. From the moment "Working Week" hits the speakers - you can hear the taught band but the deliberately distanced vocals take away from the impact. Some tracks though are absolutely stunning - the sheer drum wallop coming from "Waiting For The End Of The World" is amazing and yet that guitar feels even more disconnected. Even though it's brash "Blame It On The Cain" feels incredible - that fantastic staccato beat as Elvis sings about Government burglars taking away his dosh.

Three in a row with great sound are the beautiful ballad "Alison" with the LP's title amidst its lyrics - the catchy "Sneaky Feelings" (can't let them show) and the lyrically acidic "(The Angels Wanna Wear My) Red Shoes" where EC used to be disgusted but now he's just amused. "Less Than Zero" is absolutely huge on this remaster - amazing clarity (as is "Watching The Detectives") - and I hear South America is coming into style. There is a 2007 2CD 'Deluxe Edition' with shed loads more on offer and flashier presentation (outtakes, B-sides, live material) - but I like the simplicity of just the album.

I'm constantly amazed at how good Costello's first foray was and still is - a stunning debut album that announced the arrival of a major songwriting talent (coming up on its 40th Anniversary in November 2017).

I will get sentimental about "My Aim Is True" – warts and all - I f***ing love it...

May 2007 ELVIS COSTELLO 'Originals' CD Series of Reissues:
1. My Aim Is True (1977) - Hip-O Records B0008635-02 (Barcode 602517260863)
2. This Year’s Model (1978) – Hip-O Records B0008638-02 (Barcode 602517260894)
3. Armed Forces (1979) – Hip-O Records B0008630-02 (Barcode 602517260818)
4. Get Happy!! (1980) - Hip-O Records B0008632-02 (Barcode 602517260832)
5. Almost Blue (1981) - Hip-O Records B0008628-02 (Barcode 602517260573)
6. Trust (1981) - Hip-O Records B0008639-02 (Barcode 602517260900)
7. Imperial Bedroom (1982) – Hip-O Records B0008634-02 (Barcode 602517260856)
8. Punch The Clock (1983) – Hip-O Records B0008636-02 (Barcode ?)
9. Goodbye Cruel World (1984) – Hip-O Records B0008633-02 (Barcode 602517260849)
10. King Of America (1986) – Hip-O Records B0008637-02 (Barcode 602517260887)
11. Blood and Chocolate (1986) – Hip-O Records B0008631-02 (Barcode 602517260825)
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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.
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on 22 December 2016
Bought this shortly after it was released. Elvis sounded very young and fresh (and angry) then, the songs are excellent, short, sharp, melodic; he was backed by the band Clover, who do an excellent job, though it was when he formed the Attractions that his music really came into it's own. My favourite songs on the album are "Red Shoes", "No Dancing", the wonderful ballad "Alison" and "Less Than Zero", but the others are fine too. There have been multiple reissues, with different combinations of additional tracks, including the single "Watching the Detectives" (one of his best ever songs, recorded with the Attractions) some demos and one double CD reissue with a live album from 1977.Worth getting the extra tracks if you see a cheap deal, but the album itself (plus "....Detectives") are essential.
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on 10 May 2012
I won't get into the issues about various CD releases over the years each having a few more tracks than the last, which is irritating. I only had my original rather battered Stiff LP release of this record. I only like the first 3 Costello albums.

Disc 1 has the original album tracks which are as superb as ever. Then there's a clutch of 4 outtakes for tracks that didn;'t make it onto the album. Then there's a solo set just EC and guitar which were teh demos recorded at Pathway studios in 1976. That set's quite interesting but not essential.
Disc 2 is a complete concert set from the Nashville Rooms in Aug 77 (with a bonus of the soundcheck at the end too) recorded on the Island Mobile rig, so quality is top notch. Pretty excellent bonus, unlike many of the 2 disc sets with "outtakes and extras" I would be happy to listen to this over again.

So - if you like the original album this box set is worth getting. If you haven't heard much early Costello then this set is also worth getting.
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on 3 November 2015
Elvis arrived on the music scene fully formed with a shed load of material. This album captures the mood of the period perfectly. Quite raw and edgy but exciting.
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on 6 January 2016
The breakthrough Album with Elvis Costello at his brilliant best, was lucky to see him on the stiff tour, what a label and what a collection of talent!
A must have for any collection for the lover of lyrics!
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on 8 September 2016
great album excellent service
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on 24 July 2017
An album full of short sharp songs a breath of fresh air compared to todays overproduced rubbish that needs 6 or 7 writers on each song.
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on 8 December 2015
A classic album that still sounds great today
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on 23 July 2014
The original album plus a superb live set from several locations. Elvis and the Attractions play as tightly and as faithfully as the original studio cuts. Very Very please.
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