CMJ New Music, 1995-06-01
by Steve Ciabattoni
Review of Kojak Variety

Recorded between 1989's Spike and 1991's Mighty Like A Rose, this mish-mash of old jazz, blues, and rock selections that Elvis often sneaks into his concerts shows a band being road-tested after Costello had given the Attractions the heave-ho. The Kojak Variety sounds as loose as an Unplugged session, and often less rehearsed and staged then those sets usually come across - it's pretty hard to be self concious when you're singing tracks like "Bama Lama Bama Loo" or "Leave My Kitten Alone." Throughout, Elvis does a nice job covering some potentially embarrassing material. Not known (or even tolerated) for his crooning, Costello gives the Sinatra chestnut "The Very Thought of You" a tender delivery. Whether covering country blues ("Must You Throw Dirt In My Face") or full-throttle electric blues (Howlin' Wolf's "Hidden Charms), Costello and his band never kid around. There is no schmaltzy Buster Poindexter gee-aren't-old-songs-neat review; it's more like an earnest songwriting perfectionist proving that they don't write 'em or play 'em like they used to. Folks who haven't kept up with Elvis since "Everyday I Write The Book" might find the directness of this material a welcome change rom his recent records. Only Mose Alison's "Everybody's Crying Mercy" holds any crafty lyrical bite; the rest of Kojak lets Elvis glibly rock, roll and soul around for a change.

FILE UNDER: Elvis idols.
RECOMMENDED IF YOU LIKE: Costello's King of America, Lyle Lovett and his Band.