This is the kind of record a label will exhume from its vaults after an artist has been around for a dozen albums or years: an accumulation of outtakes, B-sides, import singles and alternate versions designed to cover a period of no activity. Instead, Taking Liberties appears only six months after the prodigious Get Happy! and becomes Elvis Costello's fifth American album, made up entirely of material that didn't make it to the first four LPs. Obviously, this potpourri lacks the cohesion which marked those discs, but Taking Liberties still offers a revealing peek into the working process of a remarkable songwriter.
The very first entry, a previously-unreleased cut, "Clean Money," contains the refrain, "Won't take my love for tender," which eventually became the title of the song on Get Happy! Slowed-down, dramatic versions of "Black and White World" and "Clowntime is Over," both included here as Costello-produced takes, show how much Nick Lowe was really responsible for the great fake-Motown sound on Get Happy! On "Sunday's Best," originally on the English edition of Armed Forces and included here, Costello sings, "Put them all in boots and car keys / Blame it all on the darkies." Considering Elvis' track record on racist comments, it is no wonder the cut never made it onto the domestic Armed Forces.
In fact, most of Taking Liberties probably went unreleased for very good reason, mostly the weak production — the majority of the tracks sound too raw and trebly for American Quality Control. Nevertheless, in its own off-handed way, Taking Liberties could well be Elvis Costello's Basement Tapes.