Review of The Very Best Of Elvis Costello double CD
Times, 1999-08-10


Elvis in any style you like

The Very Best Of
(Universal 546 490-2 15.99)

RUSH released to exploit Costello's lacklustre version of Charles Aznavour's She on the Notting Hill soundtrack, the sole new recording here, this 42-track double CD is a timely reminder of the Britpop elder statesman's 20-year career. Declan McManus has never quite lived up to his reputation as the post-punk generation's most literate songsmith - indeed, his lyrics are often as graceless as his absurdly mannered vocals. But his prickly passion and astounding range of styles, from soul to country to modern classical, eventually win you over with more bullying enthusiasm than charm.

Cherry-picking favourite dishes from this sprawling banquet is almost pointless, but we recommend Shipbuilding, the Falklands protest song originally written for Robert Wyatt, and Tramp The Dirt Down, a deceptively pastoral fantasy about dancing on Margaret Thatcher's grave. Costello completists may well mourn the tokenistic nods to his Brodsky Quartet and Burt Bacharach collaborations, each represented here by a single track. But overall, there is much in this meaty retrospective to support the view that Costello is our closest living equivalent to a Dylan or Springsteen figure.