With the release of Taking Liberties, Elvis Costello has proven himself to be the bane of his most avid fans.
Throughout his career, Costello has consistently managed to stick on the B sides of domestic and British singles various songs which do not show up on his albums — which themselves usually vary in track listings between domestic and British pressings.
Digging up these obscure tracks is not only a time consuming habit, its expensive.
To end the scarcity of these obscure tracks, they have been assembled on one album, Taking Liberties, on the premise that Costello's devoted fans would want them. This is a paradoxical position since most of Costello's devoted fans would have already made the effort to dig them out.
Taking Liberties covers the range of Costello's career, including early stuff like "Radio Sweetheart," the flip of his first Stiff single, up to the most recent British single, a three track, self-produced effort.
Along the musical trail are two songs which have never been previously released — "Hoover Factory" and "Clean Money" — and an alternative version of "Black And White World."
Twenty tracks in all mean that it's another more-for-your-money album from Costello.
Nonetheless, there are problems. First, the album lacks any conceivable order, so that one of the newer songs is followed by an oldie, then back to the more recent present. If the tracks had been arranged chronologically, one could possibly have seen an evolution of styles through Costello's career.
But, certain tracks do stand out, such as his version of "My Funny Valentine" and "Stranger In The House," the country song written For George Jones, and on a freebie single included in first copies of the British pressing of This Year's Model. As well there's the classic "(I Don't Want To Go To) Chelsea," an undeniably brilliant song.
So what is missing? Well, the flip side of the This Year's Model freebie, a revised version of The Damned's "Neat Neat Neat" slowed down to a moodier piece highlighted by the sax playing of Lol Coxhill, its inclusion should have been essential. But overall Taking Liberties does just about wrap up all the loose ends Costello has scattered throughout his career.
The album is a testimony to Costello's writing ability — in his brief career he has come up with so many "extra" songs that other writers would swap their mothers for. Still it is not an essential Costello album like his previous four LPs. One wonders whether his previous work, Get Happy!, perhaps did not sell as well as expected, so that this compilation serves as a means to keep the artist in the limelight. But for the Costello fan, it is all right indeed.
Incidentally, the album is released in Britain only as a cassette, rebaptized Ten Bloody Marys & Ten How's Your Fathers, definitely a more interesting title than Taking Liberties.