Chicago Tribune, May 18, 1995

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Kojak Variety

Elvis Costello

Mark Caro

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Between the Rykodisc reissues of his back catalog and this collection of obscure cover versions, Elvis Costello has proven himself to be a lively, illuminating author of liner notes. But the musicologist in him might have been better served if, instead of recommending that listeners seek out the original renditions of the songs included here, he had actually put together such a compilation. Costello recorded this album in 1991 with the musicians who made up his inaptly named Rude 5 backing band, and the performances suffer from the same fussy slickness that marred his Mighty Like a Rose album. Versions of Bob Dylan's "I Threw It All Away," Little Willie John's "Leave My Kitten Alone" and James Carr's "Pouring Water on a Drowning Man" seem overly polite and superficial compared to the searing renditions he was performing live back in the mid-1980s, and the droney effects on the Kinks' "Days" muffle the song's emotions and sap its energy. Costello does uncover some R&B gems, but communicating affection for them isn't the same as reinvigorating them.

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Chicago Tribune, May 18, 1995


Mark Caro reviews Kojak Variety.


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