The cynic one has spoken. That's right, the musical genius (dare I say God), Elvis Costello, has released his first in a line of forthcoming boxed sets entitled Two and a Half Years.
The first portion of all of Costello's and the Attractions albums include his first three albums, My Aim is True, This Year's Model, and Armed Forces. The set also includes the extremely bootlegged, but never formally released, except in promo format, Live At El Mocambo. This album illustrates perfectly the energy portrayed in every Costello concert while still maintaining a pristine sound quality.
The new boxed set is the first in a series of Costello albums being re-issued by Rykodisc which did the same for artists like David Bowie and Frank Zappa. Rykodisc plans to re-release all of Costello's Columbia Records albums up until Blood and Chocolate, which incidentally was his last album before signing on with Warner Brothers Records.
Each album in the compilation includes all of Costello's songs recorded at the time, even the ones that were booted off the albums. Strangely enough, a lot of those songs were included on compilations and collector's recordings like the American released Taking Liberties and the British equivalent Ten Bloody Mary's and Ten How's Your Fathers. But there are other demos and bootlegs included that at one time were very hard to get your hands on.
The packaging for the albums is another added perk to heighten the already incredible music. The set includes a vinyl sized book full of rare and already seen photographs portraying the angry post punk youth of the late '70s in his early new wave surroundings. The book also includes the photo shoot pictures for the cover of his first album.
Another interesting facet to the album package are the liner notes included in each compact disc and written by Costello himself. Costello rummages through his past, telling all of the quirks of his recording career and the time spent with the Attractions. Each of the writings lend themselves to the sheer intelligence that Costello possesses and is portrayed in a way that only Elvis knows how.
Each of Costello's first three albums have been considered extremely ground breaking and have changed styles of music and influenced many artists since he burst onto the scene in 1977. These recordings finally do one of the greatest song writers of the 20th century (and hopefully 21st century) justice.
The re-mastering of all the recordings is unbelievable and to have all of the songs readily available on each recording is a perfect idea so that Costello fans don't have to hunt for the long lost B-sides and rare songs to make ones collection complete. This collection of music could very well be given the title of "The Definitive Elvis Costello Collection." At long last, fans can "pick apart" his lyrics looking at symbolism and double meanings in one sitting.
Costello's songs are perfectly written and the lyrics exhibit the writings of a Pulitzer Prize winning author.
Each of the original melodies blend perfectly with the profound lyrics. I seriously recommend picking up a copy of the boxed set. If you can't shell out $40 at one time, buy the albums individually. After you pick up each of the first three albums, you can then send away for the live album, buy sending in a series of coupons.
All of the B-sides included on the albums and the live album itself is reason enough to get the set. The live album gives the perfect glimpse of the angry, hyper Elvis Costello and the Attractions while they played live in early 1978 and for many more years to come.
One reviewer described the songs of the concert as being sung "gratingly, grippingly, spitting out surreal images, working himself into a spastic rage." That should be enough for anyone to want to experience Costello live.
Most music fans remember Costello as the angry youth, punk character of the late 1970s, the pigeon-toed guy with the horn-rimmed glasses, and the songs that portrayed industrial strength cynicism. This new boxed set exhibits that portion of Costello's career perfectly. It portrays Costello's snide rage and the spirit of late 70s punk with laser beam accuracy. The set exhibits the type of attitude of music and life that boasts enough venom to live up to the caustic Costello legacy. The new boxed set is a truly great compilation of music for a truly great musician.