All are standout selections from their respective albums
Chris White 2007-07-24
Hot on the heels of last year’s career-spanning Best Of disc and the digital re-mastering of his first 11 albums, here’s the latest attempt to cash-in on Elvis Costello’s formidable back catalogue. Surprise surprise, it’s almost identical to the host of other compilations that provide an introduction to this prolific and versatile songwriter.
As any Costello fans will already own all or most of The Best Of The First 10 Years, it’s presumably aimed at those who have never purchased any of his albums before, and viewed on that level, there’s absolutely nothing wrong with this exemplary if unimaginative set.
Chronologically charting the Liverpudlian’s development from his spiky post-punk hits in the late ’70s to the more experimental work of a decade or so later, most listeners will instantly recognise the pumping organ introduction of “Radio Radio” and the Police-like reggae influenced rhythms of “(I Don’t Want To Go To) Chelsea” and “Watching The Detectives”. Most familiar of all is “Oliver’s Army”; its joyously exuberant piano and irresistible chorus arguably make it the singer’s defining moment.
Entering the 1980s, Costello started to branch out and explore a more diverse range of styles, generally preferring to record with a variety of expert session musicians rather than his established backing band The Attractions. So instead of clever, chart-friendly pop, we get country covers (“A Good Day For The Roses”), Blonde on Blonde-era Dylan stream-of- consciousness rock (“A Man Out Of Time”) and political ballads (“Shipbuilding”, featuring a beautiful trumpet solo from jazz legend Chet Baker). All are standout selections from their respective albums, but the full extent of Costello’s artistic ambition can only truly be appreciated by listening to the likes of Imperial Bedroom and King of America from start to finish.
With his intelligent, often acerbic lyrics, strong melodic sensibility and (occasionally excessive) willingness to innovate, there’s no doubt Elvis Costello should have a place in any discerning record collection. But with at least five other similar retrospectives already out there, some at budget prices, will anyone actually need this one?