“Taking Liberties” is a compilation of songs accumulated since 1977 from previously unreleased masters and B-side cuts off various Costello recordings.
Catagorizing Elvis Costello’s style is virtually impossible. Not far from new wave and punk, Costello borders closer to the 50’s genre of rock and gutty blues.
Somewhere in his translation however, Costello forgets to utilize imagination. The album is often repetitive, but reflects definite versatilities.
Elvis Costello’s voice supports the album and is proof of its individuality. Unfortunately, the music behind the voice for the most part, is lacking.
Side one sounds extremely choppy; the songs change pace almost too frequently and too drastically. The rhyme is predictable and the base line lacks kick. Even Costello’s voice sounds whiny, using excessive ooh’s and too many extended vowel sounds.
On the other hand, side two contains several flashes of stylistic flare and imagination.
“Hoover Factory”, “Tiny Steps”, and “(I Don’t Want to Go) Chelsea” stand out as the most dynamic songs on the album.
All three break the pattern set by the first side. Beaming with striking acoustic guitar licks and rolling vocals, these songs succeed in creating tight, clean sound.
Costello even throws in a couple of different western swing tunes just for kicks.
But Elvis Costello is unable to recreate the pulsing innovation and drive of such new wave giants as Devo and the Talking Heads.
His style is a bit too reminiscent of Buddy Holly and even Freddie Fender.
Costello does a pretty fair job of recreating the old favorite blues song, “My Funny Valentine”, which of course appears on the second side.
There are twenty songs on “Taking Liberties”, and not one exceeds 3.30 minutes. I’m sure there is some point to this, but what?
Most of the lyrics on this album are very colloquial and ironically seem to be lashing out at just that: conformity and complacency.
On the whole, “Taking Liberties” has a certain magnetism that doesn’t reach much deeper than good stylized imitation of the past rock and blues classics.