Columbia Missourian, October 5, 1980

From The Elvis Costello Wiki
Jump to: navigation, search
- Bibliography -
1415161718 19 20 21

Columbia Missourian

Missouri publications

US publications by state
  • GAHA   IA      ID      IL
  • IN   KSKYLA   MA


Costello takes too many liberties with
'white elephant' album

Robert Palmer / New York Times News Service

Taking Liberties, Elvis Costello's new Columbia album, isn't going to endear Costello to those who think he's already taken too many liberties.

On his previous LP, Get Happy!!!, Costello crammed 20 songs onto a single disk, and while some of the performances and arrangements were carefully polished, others had the rough immediacy of a songwriter's demonstration record. Taking Liberties presents 20 more songs, and again the performances and arrangements run the gamut from processed to raw. But Get Happy!!! was a coherent album, with a characteristic sound and style of its own, while Taking Liberties is a collection of tracks from various stages of Costello's career.

The one thing the songs on the album have in common is that they haven't appeared on any of Costello's American albums. Some are the B-sides of singles and some are selections from English EP's or LP's. Some are worth having, and some might as well have stayed on the shelf.

The only real classic in the collection is "(I Don't Want to Go to) Chelsea," which was previously available in the United States on the soundtrack album from the film Americathon and which most of Costello's fans probably own. There are several interesting tracks that Costello produced and recorded as a kind of one-man band — "Ghost Train," for example, and his surprisingly straightforward version of the Rodgers and Hart "My Funny Valentine." "Getting Mighty Crowded," a Van McCoy tune, is another of Costello's stylish, energetic soul excursions, and it wouldn't have sounded out of place on Get Happy!!!. Two songs, the very early "Radio Sweetheart" and "Stranger in the House," are closer to pure country and western balladry than anything on Costello's albums.

More questionable are the two alternate versions of songs from Get Happy!!!, neither of which is as effective as the version originally released, and Costello's "Girls Talk," which was first recorded by Dave Edmunds. When Edmunds did "Girls Talk," he stole the song away from Costello and made It his own; Costello's performance of it is as superfluous as Linda Ronstadt's. Several other songs, among them "Talking In the Dark" (which pinches the organ break from the Beatles' "Penny Lane") and "Dr. Luther's Assistant," are simply second-rate.

Despite these and a few other lapses, the quality of the album's music is generally pretty high. But Taking Liberties doesn't hang together particularly well as an album, principally because the performances are drawn from various sessions and because the backing and arrangements aren't consistent from track to track. Get Happy!!! worked because the songs seemed to belong to a particular time and place, and because Costello's band, the Attractions, enforced a certain stylistic unity. Taking Liberties doesn't transcend its original premise; it's a collection of odds and ends, no more and no less. Columbia says Costello will have an album of new material ready early next year and that he'll probably be performing in America again then. Meanwhile, Taking Liberties offers bargain basement Costello at big-store prices.


Columbia Missourian, Vibrations, October 5, 1980

Robert Palmer reviews Taking Liberties.


1980-10-05 Columbia Missourian Vibrations page 10 clipping 01.jpg

1980-10-05 Columbia Missourian Vibrations page 10.jpg
Page scan.


Back to top

External links