Taking Liberties, the title of the new Elvis Costello album, suggests the "King of New Wave" is doing just that. There is nothing exactly new about the album; it is 'composed of unreleased singles and flip sides never available on any previous domestic Elvis album. Still, the cuts suggest Costello's highly creative stance, variety, and quantity. Once again there are 20 cuts on the album, making it close to 52 minutes in length.
The songs may still be familiar to some Elvis fans. There are two cuts from the previous album, Get Happy: "Clowntime is Over" and "Black and White World." Nonetheless, these "new" versions are considerably slower, making them more interesting and making the words which are so important to Costello, more' audible. It is Costello's fast style that sometimes makes it hard for the listener to hear exactly what he's saying.
There are also two songs which were covered on Linda Ronstadt's last album; Mad Love. "Girls Talk" is a short version and "Talking in the Dark" sounds as if Elvis liked Ronstadt's version enough to copy it (or is it vice versa?).
The album reveals the profitability of releasing singles that were unavailable before. Both "Night Rally" and "I Don't Want to Go to Chelsea" were featured on imported versions of the album This Year's Model. They are featured here with no changes. There is a cut that was on the Americathon soundtrack, a bouncy 1950s-inspired "Crawling to the USA."
And finally, the country-western number (which show's that Elvis can tackle all genres including the one of Gene Autry) was released in the single on the album This Year's Model. It is of some wonder that the flip-side of that single "Neat, Neat, Neat," was not placed on Taking Liberties also.
On to the newer songs ... "Radio Sweetheart" is an energetic number which shows off Costello's harmonies and crooning that made My Aim is True such a hit. "Getting Mighty Crowded" reveals the Motown styling, while "Clean Money" (in which Elvis repeats again that "you won't take my love for tender") sounds Beatlesque.
"Dr. Luther's Under Assistant," "Tiny Steps," "Big Tears," and "Sunday Best" all feature Costello's angry rage at sneaky scientists, fashion, and rejection. It is this projected anger that has made Elvis famous as an irate rocker.
Perhaps the best cut on the new album is "Just A Memory." A slow romantic tale of heartbreak played on a piano, it is undoubtedly one of Elvis' best songs ever: "Lying about laying in bed / Maybe it was something I said ... Losing you is just a memory / Memory don't mean that much to me."
This song certainly conveys so much meaning about rejection that it is probably only a short time before some other pop star like Barry Manilow turns it into a mushy Top 40 song.
Taking Liberties is no doubt a commercial package but it's one that goes to no ends to satisfy Elvis fans and succeeds well. It is the latest in a series of albums from a new waver who just gets better and better.