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Information about the Rhino re-release of Armed Forces, Imperial Bedroom and Mighty Like A Rose
Billboard, 2002-10-05
- Barry A. Jeckell


Costello Reissues Roll On

Three decades of Elvis Costello's career will be represented with Rhino's third batch of reissued albums, due Nov. 19. Like the two previous volleys, 1979's "Armed Forces," 1982's "Imperial Bedroom," and "1991's "Mighty Like a Rose" will all be released as two-disc sets -- one featuring a remixed and remastered version of the original album, the other filled with bonuses including B-sides, live material, and demo recordings. Each title will also include new detailed liner notes penned by the artist and lyrics for all of the songs.

"Armed Forces," Costello's third Columbia studio album, is perhaps best known for the tracks "Oliver's Army," "Accidents Will Happen," and a cover of Nick Lowe's "(What's So Funny 'Bout) Peace, Love and Understanding?" The set spent 25 weeks on the Billboard album chart, peaking at No. 10. Among the bonus tracks on the new version's second disc includes the B-side "Tiny Steps," alternate recordings of "Busy Bodies" and "Big Boys," as well as nine live tracks from a 1978 concert at Hollywood High School, six of which have never been released.

An album that reached No. 30 on the Billboard chart, "Imperial Bedroom" saw a shift away from Costello's trademark "angry young man" image, with such contemplative gems as "Almost Blue" and "Man Out of Time." The Columbia set was produced by Beatles engineer Geoff Emerick and featured arrangements by Steve Nieve, keyboardist of Costello's band, the Attractions, and a career-long collaborator. The second disc is bursting with 23 tracks, a heady 16 of which have never before been issued, including demos or alternate takes of nearly every track on the original album. Other bonuses include the album's title track, recorded after its completion and never included on the set.

"Mighty Like a Rose," originally issued via Warner Bros., is the sole album among these three that has not been previously reissued with bonus material ("Armed Forces" and "Imperial Bedroom" were reissued as expanded single discs by Rykodisc in 1993 and 1994, respectively). Although it reached a mere No. 55 on The Billboard 200, the ambitious and dense album features the single "The Other Side of Summer," and the Paul McCartney/Costello-penned songs "So Like Candy" and "Playboy to a Man." A live take of "Couldn't Call It Unexpected No. 4" is among the added disc's 17 tracks, as are collaborations with Rob Wasserman, Mary Coughlan, and the Chieftains, three songs recorded during the artist's 1991 episode of MTV's "Unplugged," and eight home demo recordings.

Promising to deliver expanded versions of every one of Costello's albums, the reissue train's next stop is tentatively set for April 2003. That payload will be comprised of updated versions of a trio of 1980s-era albums: "Get Happy!!" (1980), "Trust" (1981), and "Punch the Clock" (1984).

In February, Rhino re-released "This Year's Model" (1978), "Blood and Chocolate" (1986), and "Brutal Youth" (1994). The label kicked off the reissue campaign last summer with the release of expanded versions of "My Aim Is True" (1977), his Warner Bros. bow, "Spike (1989), and his final Warner studio set, "All This Useless Beauty" (1996).

Even as his career's work is mined, Costello continues to make new music. His latest album, "When I Was Cruel" (Island), debuted in May at No. 20 on The Billboard 200. "Cruel Smile," a new album of remixes and live tracks recorded while touring in support of "When I Was Cruel," was released earlier this week.

-- Barry A. Jeckell, N.Y.


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