Miami New Times, July 20, 1995

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Kojak Variety

Elvis Costello

Michael Yockel

As a result of his huge rep as a songwriter, Elvis Costello's talents as an interpreter of others' work often has been overlooked. Pity, because in the past he adroitly has embodied songs by everyone from Nick Lowe to Burt Bacharach-Hal David to Sam and Dave. Recorded four years ago with a crack band (guitarists Marc Ribot and James Burton, bassist Jerry Scheff, pianist-organist Larry Knechtel, and drummers Jim Keltner and Pete Thomas), Kojak Variety finds Costello in pop ethnomusicologist mode, pawing through his apparently sizable record collection to cull cherished tunes.

He fares best when singing ballads: a simmering version of Mose Allison's biting "Everybody's Crying Mercy," an airy reading of Randy Newman's lovely "I've Been Wrong Before," and elegant renditions of both Bob Dylan's "I Threw It All Away" (from Nashville Skyline) and Ray Noble's "The Very Thought of You." And he pours bucketfuls of soulfulness into an obscure Supremes song ("Remove This Doubt") and the old Aretha Franklin number "Running Out of Fools," while tearing into Bill Anderson's painful "Must You Throw Dirt in My Face." Of course he stumbles from time to time — the cover of the Kinks' "Days" completely obliterates the song's innate wistfulness with production overkill — but mostly Costello does right by the originals, further authenticating his appreciation for the fading craft of songwriting and demonstrating his considerable skills as a singer.


Tags: Kojak VarietyNick LoweBurt BacharachHal DavidSam & DaveMarc RibotJames BurtonJerry ScheffLarry KnechtelJim KeltnerPete ThomasMose AllisonEverybody's Crying MercyRandy NewmanI've Been Wrong BeforeBob DylanI Threw It All AwayRay NobleThe Very Thought Of YouThe SupremesRemove This DoubtAretha FranklinRunning Out Of FoolsBill AndersonMust You Throw Dirt In My FaceThe KinksDays

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Miami New Times, July 20, 1995


Michael Yockel reviews Kojak Variety.

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Kojak Variety album cover.jpg

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