Lloyd Cole and Elvis Costello both have new albums out, but neither is available on domestic release. Cole is currently without a Canadian distribution deal and, for one reason or another, Columbia, Costello's domestic distributor, has elected not to market his new compilation album. As a result both albums are available only as British imports and vary in price from roughly $16.98 for the records to $27.98 for the compact discs.
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Moving on to Elvis Costello. Out of Our Idiot is a hodgepodge compilation of tracks recorded under various pseudonyms between 1979 and 1987.
The album consists of a number of B-sides, including several collaborations, half a dozen cover versions, a couple of soundtrack theme songs, as well as a few alternate versions of previously recorded material.
The only theme here is variety and, in keeping with the unassuming ambitions of the album, Costello has elected to merchandise the record accordingly. The cover looks like a second rate K-tel jacket, and even t he spine of the record lists the album as being by "various artists." In many ways the description is apt.
Costello is comfortable in so many styles that, except for the distinctive voice, you might think the songs were by a number of different performers. Certainly a large part of the album's appeal lies in its diversity.
Some of the collaborations include "Seven Day Weekend" with reggae legend Jimmy Cliff. "People's Limousine" was a British single released under the banner of the "Coward Brothers"and performed with friend and one-time producer T-Bone Burnett.
Costello also does an admirable job with several other cover versions. His rendition of Yoko Ono's "Walking On Thin Ice," embellished by the TKO Horns, is excellent as is his upbeat treatment of Smokey Robinson's "From Head to Toe."
Some of the out-takes left off various albums are of an unexpectedly high quality, given that people usually assume B-sides to be throwaways. For instance, "Black Sails in the Sunset" was inexplicably left off the 1980 album Trust, while the country inflected "Get Yourself Another Fool" as well as "Shoes Without Heels" would have held their own on the King of America album.
Also included are a couple of reworkings of two recent songs. "American Without Tears No. 2" essentially changes only the lyrics, while "Blue Chair" is an alternate acoustic version of the single originally released on the Blood & Chocolate album
Out Of Our Idiot is a great sampler of the last eight years of Costello's career. Fans both old and new will be impressed with this unpretentious, wide ranging grab-bag.