Billboard, September 1, 2001

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Vital reissues

My Aim Is True, Spike, All This Useless Beauty

Bradley Bambarger

These reissues — the first trio in a complete, thematic Rhino rollout of Elvis Costello's entire back catalog — set a new standard for the remastering, repackaging, and reconsideration of a current artist's work. Each album — now expanded to two CDs (for the price of one), with the bonus disc featuring contemporary demos, alternate takes, B-sides, and collaborations — features freshly remastered sound, complete credits and lyrics (even for the bonus material), extra photos, and compelling annotation by Costello himself. Put out by Rykodisc, the previous single-disc reissues of Costello's original Columbia material were excellent in their way, with good sound and a wealth of additional material. But Rhino's are that much better, and they include the albums from Costello's Warner Bros. years. His 1977 Columbia debut, My Aim Is True, remains a new-wave singer/songwriter classic, of course, and the 13 very rare (some long-lost) bonus tracks add real value. Spike, Costello's 1989 bow on Warner, was a bold step beyond the edgy rock 'n' roll of his longtime backup band, the Attractions, with the grand production featuring complex arrangements and a connoisseur's collection of session players. A number of cover tunes and demos are included, with the demos showing just how much the Spike material was shaped in the studio (almost always to its benefit). The album that gains most from double-disc expansion is Costello's final Warner set, 1996's All This Useless Beauty. The bonus tracks here are stellar — proving that Costello's first drafts and offshoot tracks are often superior to many singer/songwriters' master takes. His demo for "Hidden Shame," a great song written for Johnny Cash, rocks with down-home insouciance, while "The Comedians," recorded by Roy Orbison, benefits from Costello's grittier interpretation. Yet a spooky remix of "Distorted Angel" by Tricky vastly improves on the original track. The whole series — which celebrates the Attractions with the January release of This Year's Model, Brutal Youth, and Blood and Chocolate — reemphasizes the good that can be done when an artist has sway over his own catalog.

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Billboard, September 1, 2001

Bradley Bambarger reviews the Rhino reissues of My Aim Is True, Spike and All This Useless Beauty.


2001-09-01 Billboard page 21 clipping 01.jpg

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Cover and Page scan.


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