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Get Your Box Off

Stuart Bailie | 09:43 UK time, Monday, 5 December 2011

I was on Arts Extra last Thursday, talking about the new Elvis Costello box set, 'The Return Of the Spectacular Spinning Song Book'. You probably know that there's a minor controversy in the story - that this lavish production is retailing at more than £200 and that the author himself is urging his fans to forsake the hefty investment and to settle for a Louis Armstrong collection instead.

I can't tell you much about the new Costello record, as the price would make me baulk every time. However, I can understand that some well-moneyed completists would find the proposal a bit exciting - recorded proof of Elvis and The Imposters live in Los Angeles, playing the songs that have been suggested randomly, at the spin of a rickety wheel. Plus tidy photographs and some other extras. Some Christmas mornings will not be fulfilled without one.

On Arts Extra, I wondered if there was an impish dimension to Costello's quote. After all, the resulting publicity has given the release a tremendous deal of publicity, something that more worthy Elvis records have sometimes lacked.

On the other end of the scale, I would recommend a new Tom Waits set, 'Original Album Series'. It's a very unfussy deal - simple cardboard sleeves, no extra liner notes or anything exotic, but it does deliver five early albums for less than £15. It's the sound of the guy's drinking years, his jazzy good humour, some beat literature and guttural abandon. His talent would later expand in spectacular style with 'Swordfishtrombones' in 1983, but here's the Bushmills-soaked preamble.

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