The Word, September 2004

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The Word


Almost Blue, Goodbye Cruel World, Kojak Variety

Gareth James

Persuading people to buy Imperial Bedroom or Armed Forces again was never likely to prove difficult, but convincing people to shell out another time for albums they don't really play is an unenviable brief. The country one, the bluesy covers one and the crap one are the next titles to have their moment in the sun in the current Costello reissue programme.

Kojak Variety and Nashville experiment Almost Blue were never more than diversionary releases; Costello getting these songs out of his system simply because he could. The remastering of the latter is surprising, the mustiness of the 1994 reissue replaced with a crisp sound that transforms the record from mete hacking music. Unfortunately, Kojak Variety's reappearance does little more than confirm the old adage that you can't polish a turd. The bonus disc at least offers some more intriguing covers; Costello's spin on Van Morrison's "Full Force Gale" is an unexpected pleasure, staying just the tight side of self-indulgent. However, knowing what he's capable of means that listening to a bundle of quickly tossed-off covers does little mute than make you wonder why you're not playing This Years Model instead.

The unexpected jewel in the crown is Goodbye Cruel World, which succeeds thanks to the canny decision to include a large number of demo versions that unveil the bare hones of the tracks, prior to their being produced Out of existence. "I Wanna Be Loved" and "Inch By Inch" are the standout examples of how the songs themselves were excellent, conforming to Costello's assessment that it was the "the worst record of the best songs I've ever written."

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The Word, No 19, September 2004

Gareth James reviews the Rhino reissues of Almost Blue, Goodbye Cruel World, and Kojak Variety.


2004-09-00 The Word cover.jpg


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