As a starry-eyed kid of 19, Frank Sinatra and his immortal blue eyes broke young girl's hearts during the "Swing Era." His crooning style of singing was often copied, but never successfully re-created except, maybe, by Mel Torme. Then, Elvis Presley and his gyrating hip show brought that style to rock and roll. Jim Morrison then combined this same vocal technique with poetry and one of Rock's most enigmatic and lasting cult heroes. In the seventies, Elvis Costello, the bad boy of the recording industry, brought crooning to its apex. To celebrate and solidify his place in music history as, indeed, one of the greatest, there is the release of this "Best or collection which spans the last nine years of Costello's prolific recording and creating career.
The problem remains, albeit a very pleasant one, how to review music that has already been examined, explicated, and extrapolated by every music magazine from Billboard to Spin. Time and time again the importance of Costello to the then-new, experimental, although wholly nihilistic, style of Punk in its infancy and later to the rising form of reggae has been written about. We know his music. We know he is the polish on some very rough and raw musical concepts. We know he is a leading, if not the leading force, behind avant-garde styles. So where does a reviewer go from here?
It is interesting to note here that the 16 songs on the album are being released in conjunction with a video collection of 22 Costello videos, some never viewed before in this country. I suppose that it should also be mentioned that it must have been a monumental task deciding which songs to place on this album. I do not envy those involved in this process. If I had been selecting the tracks the version would be about three more records longer.
Side one opens with "Alison" which was also recorded by Linda Ronstadt on her Living in the USA album. Then it follows with the reggae-before-reggae-was-cool song, "Watching the Detectives." and_the anthem-like "(What's So Funny 'Bout) Peace, Love, and Understanding." "Oliver's Army," "Pump It Up," "Accidents Will Happen," "Radio, Radio," and the classic "I Can't Stand Up for Falling Down" complete this museum collection side. Hard to believe there's this much great music on one album. Complacency has been the mode of the day with the generic 94Q style of commercialism pervading the airwaves for the last few years.
Side two continues our stroll down classic lane with the new-torch sound of "Almost Blue" — a song he has expressed an interest in having Sinatra record. "Beyond Belief," "Clubland," "Watch Your Step," "Shipbuilding," "I Wanna Be Loved," "Everyday I Write the Book," and "The Only Flame In Town," end the collection.
There is nothing new on this record, like most bands are now doing. There is only the re-affirmation of the acknowledgement of one of the most important artists recording today.