People, December 8, 1980

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Taking Liberties

Elvis Costello

Picks and Pans

A compendium of odds and ends from Costello's career, this LP reveals more about him than his best work. Topnotch art, after all, often seems to conceal the labor that goes into it, while lesser stuff betrays the hammer blows and glue seams of creation. These 20 cuts — from albums distributed only in Britain, B-sides of old singles and revised established work — indicate how indebted Costello is to '60s soul music and rockabilly. The creations here include an energetic waltz, "Sunday's Best," a classically hokey country & Western ballad, "Stranger in the House;" a hard rocker, "Clean Money," and a Beatles knock-off, "Ghost Train." He can croon Rodgers and Hart's "My Funny Valentine" like Johnny Mathis, though he can't do his own "Girls Talk" as well as Dave Edmunds did. If an updated treatment of downtime Is Over falls short of the version on his Get Happy!! LP, it still shows an active musical intelligence at work. Maybe Costello is too facile. But he is never boring.

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People, December 8, 1980

Picks and Pans reviews Taking Liberties.


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