The Elvis Costello back catalogue of albums originally released on Radar and F-Beat has now been acquired by the Demon label (an affiliate of Edsel), with the result that six of Costello's albums have been reissued under the 'Imp' logo which Elvis used for his "Pills And Soap" single last year.
The albums affected are This Year's Model (Imp FIEND 18), Armed Forces (FIEND 21), Get Happy (FIEND 24), Trust (FIEND 30), Almost Blue (FIEND 33) and Imperial Bedroom (FIEND 36). The packaging on the reissues is much the same as on the originals, with certain minor changes — for example, the black inner sleeve with the lyrics for Imperial Bedroom has been replaced by a more legible white sleeve.
Also included in the reissue series is the first appearance on album of Ten Bloody Marys And Ten How's Your Fathers, previously only available in this country as a cassette (F-Beat XXC 6) — although a very similar compilation was issued in the States as Taking Liberties.
Ten Bloody Marys is a 20-track compilation featuring obscure B-sides, songs from freebies, alternate takes and previously unreleased tracks, covering the period up to the release of the "New Amsterdam" EP in 1980. Despite its rather random approach, it is one of the best Costello albums, illustrating the breadth of his musical vision and his unwillingness to be confined to a narrow conception of his place in rock music. Hit singles "Radio Radio" and "Watching The Detectives" make their first appearance on album, while other familiar tracks include "Girls Talk", "Radio Sweetheart", "Stranger In The House" and "(What's So Funny 'Bout) Peace Love and Understanding", originally released as the flipside of a Nick Lowe single.
But it is some of the lesser-known material that brings the highest rewards. "Hoover Factory", a tribute to one of the landmarks "five miles out of London on the Western Avenue" is one of Costello's most gripping performances, while alternate takes of "Clowntime Is Over" and "Black And White World" are interesting to compare with the Get Happy prototypes. The album has its share of throwaways — "Crawling To The USA," "Talking In The Dark" and "Wednesday Week," for example — but even these testify to Elvis's ability to write coherent songs seemingly at will. The best of this collection proves far more than that, and Ten Bloody Marys is welcome either as a means of collecting together obscurities, or as yet another illustration of Costello's talents as a writer, performer and vocalist.