Daily Kent Stater, September 26, 1980

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Costello avoids lures of commercialism,
'Taking Liberties' experiments with rock


Mark D. Lauffer

In these hectic times of overnight successes and short-lived careers in the recording industry, it seems English new-waver Elvis Costello will continue to gain popularity and influence in the ever-changing world of rock 'n' roll.

After four successful American-released albums in three years, we might expect to see a Best of Elvis C. album or Elvis Live! in the usual commercialistic pattern associated with rock stardom.

Yet Costello avoids, even shuns, the gimmicks and glamour his accomplishments surely would bring by constantly churning out tune after tune with no regard to conformity or tradition as evidenced by his 1979 release, Get Happy!! which offers music flavored with several Costello styles and moods.

Columbia Records has decided to further expose the public to more of Costello's wide range of musical insight throughout his latest release, Taking Liberties, a compilation of unreleased material and English cuts that have piled up since 1977.

Taking Liberties will delight any Costello fan and draw the interest of listeners conscious of new directions rock music is always taking.

Incidentally, although a message from a Columbia executive on the back cover of the album states that none of the 20 songs have appeared on the label's "elpee until now," two tunes, "Black and White World" and "downtime is Over" showed up on Get Happy!!

The oversight might be understood when the fact that together the two albums contain 41 songs is considered.

Even so, Taking Liberties is an excellent collection of the artist's efforts which reveal sides of Costello, and his band, The Attractions, that this reviewer never knew existed.

Take for example, "Stranger in the House": who would think Elvis Costello is capable, much less willing, to merge new wave with country music? Sure enough, the song gives us wailing steel guitar and a somber Elvis singing about lost love in his simple but witty way:

There's a stranger in the house, nobody's seen his face
But everybody says he's takin my place
There's a stranger in the house, no one will ever see
But everybody says he looks like me.

Lyrics share equal importance with music in Costello's world and every song reflects this consideration.

Side one, which is clearly the strongest, contains a slower version of "Girls Talk," also recorded by Linda Ronstadt, Elvis hated her rendition, and by his cohort Dave Edmunds. This song, along with another popularized by Ronstadt, "Talking in the Dark," exhibits, very nicely, the broad range of Costello's unusual, nasal-sounding voice.

Edmunds sings on "Clean Money," a mover he engineered.

The most exciting song on the album is "Radio Sweetheart," which sounds like it could have been written by Buddy Holly as it swings along with more steel guitar.

Amid zest rockers like "Big Tears," and "Crawling to the U.S.A." and "Wednesday Week," which are more typical of Costello with driving rhythm and staccato vocals, are two slow, dreamy love songs that come across with incredible feeling.

"Just A Memory" is really nice and on "Funny Valentine" Costello croons out a spacey love story.

Only three of the album's 20 songs are more than three minutes long, but it seems the short and clean format, contributes to Costello's style.

One difference on Taking Liberties is that it has two songs Costello did not write. One of them, "Getting Mighty Crowded," is an old R&B tune by Van McCoy that Elvis works to perfection.

Rock 'n' Rollers can look forward to a future rich in Costello music; already his effect on current standards cannot be ignored. Perhaps he won't feel the influence of big business on his sound and will continue to experiment and just be himself.

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The Daily Kent Stater, September 26, 1980


Mark D. Lauffer reviews Taking Liberties.

Images

1980-09-26 Daily Kent Stater page 11 clipping 01.jpg
Clipping.

1980-09-26 Daily Kent Stater page 11.jpg
Page scan.

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