Though we don't usually bother with this sort of thing, we will make an exception here as this is truly a piece of revelatory news.
A friend of a friend of mine, in what shall remain a nameless city in Canada, is quite close with a particular British musician who just happened to be on Elvis Costello's original Stiff Records demo session. Through this connection we at Music World got to hear the tape. For the Costello collector it's a classic. It contains songs that one might not associate with Costello as well as ones that no one's even heard of before. It is assumed this tape will be in the hands of collectors in some form before long. The tape is studio quality and lovely stereo. This is a young, friendly, inexperienced, but charming Elvis Costello before the venom set in. The band sounds great and compliments Elvis perfectly. The tracks, including vocals, sound live. What follows is a brief description of each song.
"Third Rate Romance" — The tune that was a hit for the Amazing Rhythm Aces is decently performed by Elvis.
"Living In Paradise" — Similar to the LP version.
"Radio Soul" — (two takes) This song would later become "Radio, Radio" and while not as good as that song, shows what it sprang from. Its intro is the same as that on the Supremes "You Keep Me Hangin' On", only in a major key. In fact a lot of Motown influence shows thru in Elvis' work here. Elvis vocals here sound tired and bored. Nevertheless, a gem for collectors.
"Pay It Back" — Featured on his 1st LP in standard rock style, here it's done in a sort of quasi-reggae style complete with horns. Its freshness makes it sound as good if not better than that on the LP. It's lots of fun. Opens with another classic Motown riff.
"Imagination Is A Powerful Deceiver" — (three takes) This may be the best song on the tape. It's certainly every bit as good as "Alison" and maybe better. It's a well structured, depthy piece of music and one that must be heard by all Costello collectors. There's three takes here and it seems as if each one gets better. Elvis can be heard conversing with the band and making fun of his own mistakes between takes.
'Third Rate Romance" — Another take, pretty much the same as the first.
"Knockin' On Heaven's Door" — That's right — the Dylan tune. Done expertly here by Elvis and company and using the alternate lyrics that Dylan rewrote for his 1974 tour with The Band.
"Pack It Up" — (two takes) Take one opens with four false starts and some laughter. This is really a good up-tempo R & B tune and one that should be on record. Take two features back-up vocals, unlike the first version.
"Please Don't Stop The Band" — This is the last tune on the tape and is uncharacteristically wimpy writing for Elvis. It sounds like an attempt at writing a palatable AM radio song for 1976. The verse is good, but the chorus sounds like the Partridge Family. Just the same you have to hear it.
Lots of tapes, both "live" concert as well as studio recordings like this one, circulate among tape collectors. It's our intention to make everyone aware of odd ones like this that perhaps might not be well known.