I was trying to think of alternative titles for this album, but I couldn’t better the one provided. Is this Jake Riviera taking liberties with the terms of El’s American Deal? Taking liberties with the fans? It may well be both or neither, but two things should be duly noted about this collection.
1) There ain’t many artists who have twenty odds, sods and B sides lying around of sufficient quality to compose an album even halfway as snazz as “Taking Liberties”.
2) It’s sure as hell a lot more fun than The Attractions’ LP.
A similarly structured tape configuration to “Taking Liberties” will be issued by F-Beat in November, with suitable alterations to fit the Brit market. F’rinstance “(I Don’t Want To Go To) Chelsea” and “Night Rally” are two slabs of hardened El and Attractions vitriol included here because the Yank’s didn’t get ‘em on “This Year’s Model” (USA version), but these re-emergings shouldn’t put you off purchase of the greasily sleeve noted 12 inch treat at hand. For a start, there’re three previously unreleased anywhere, as far as my own scholarship can detect, works on show. That’s a short, frantic, “Clean Money”, boosted by soaring Dave Edmunds backing throatations, a new version of ‘’Get Happy!!’s Black And White World” (a rather bumpy attempt at sophistication), and the intriguing “Hoover Factory”, where EC waxes lyrical with a maddeningly undetectable (or at least untraceable) melodic lift from somebody else’s breathy epic about the weird beauty of the establishment in the title. “It’s not a matter of life or death”, he croons, “But what is, what is?”
This last mentioned makes the disque for me. The rest is all bonus. There’s the famed love word game B-side “Girls Talk”. Great song, but Edmunds defined that beyond improvement, I’d say when he singled it out a while ago. Other flip treats are the insistent “Talking In The Dark”, “Big Tears”, Van McCoy’s rollicking “Getting Mighty Crowded”, the stark effective Costello reading of Rodgers/Hart’s “My Funny Valentine” and even the angry country of “Radio Sweetheart” (which dates right back to the reverse of “Less Than Zero” on Stiff).
Along with “Valentine” “Stranger In The House” an old freebie and not the take with George Jones, shows just what a great instrument EC’s voice is in itself. It also proves he should be writing the next Tammy Wynette LP with Basher producing.
“Taking Liberties” also rounds up all those pesky EP cuts like “Just A Memory”, “Dr. Luther's Assistant” and the lyrically convoluted “Ghost Train”, plus “Crawling To The USA”, from the Americathon soundtrack debacle ( a neat rescue from an otherwise pretty lamentable “various arseholes” grabbag), plus “Sunday’s Best” (the USA hasn’t had this on LP yet), plus “Wednesday Week”, the slow moody version of “Clowntime Is Over”, a 12” flip as opposed to the whooping “Get Happy!!” treatment…. Ahhh, it’s sweet, “Tiny Steps “ to the next phase.
‘Course, I still don’t know why he has to act so pissed off all the time.