Tufts University Daily, October 8, 1980

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Liberties taken by Elvis Costello

D.S. Stone

Well here they are America, twenty more gems by the master of metaphor, guaranteed to get the highest verbiage to the mile.

Columbia Records has assembled a compilation of B-sides from Elvis Costello's singles career, and a trio of previously unreleased hits, bound to make Columbia stockholders smile. It's called, appropriately, Taking Liberties.

The obvious profit motive may turn you off, but if you enjoy Elvis at all, your disgust will undoubtedly turn into amusement.

There is some very good music here. "(I Don't Want To Go To) Chelsea," one of two songs from the British edition of his second lp, This Years Model, is one of Costello's best singles, full of anger and innuendo ("photographs of fancy tricks / to get your kicks at sixty six / and thinks of all the lips that he licks / and all the girls that he's going to fix"). The other, "Night Rally," is an ominous anti-fascism piece with Elvis bypassing the National Front to take aim at less obvious prey ("You think they're so dumb / you think they're so funny / wait until they got you running to their night rally").

Two songs, "Black and White World," and "Clowntime is Over" are alternative productions of numbers from his last release, Get Happy. "B&W" carries a heavyhanded bass and a pronounced acoustic line, as well as some clear enunciation. "Clowntime" isn't quite so successful. This decelerated version gains nothing on the record and even sounds a bit forced.

Throughout the album Elvis croons. "My Funny Valentine" is a showcase for the expressive, throaty treble Sinatra only wishes he owned. It's a true rendition of the Rogers and Hart classic with Costello's trademark, unexpressed vulnerability, featured. "Hoover Factory," previously available only on bootlegs, is short, thoughtful tune that has Elvis depressed and daydreaming ("It's not a matter of life and death, but what is? / It doesn't matter if I take another breath, who cares?").

"Clean Money" is a good song, but Costello lifted most of it from "Love For Tender" (on Get Happy). "Radio Sweetheart" (which features Nick Lowe on bass) is .a country swing number from his days with Stiff Records. "Big Tears," "Tiny Steps," and "Ghost Train" have crashing chords signaling strong choruses that power the songs along. Train even boasts a giggling Elvis who breaks-up on the final chorus ("step right up and show your face / we only want the pretty ones").

Now for the bad news. Columbia's done a shabby job on this one. There are no dates given for the songs in this collection, they aren't arranged chronologically, and the song order is lousy. The sudden cut at the end of "Night Rally" was meant to finish an album side as it did on This Years Model. Unfortunately, here it's followed by two songs, ruining the effect.

However, this is nitpicking, since most of the music is excellent and all of it is interesting. Even without dates, the inner sleeve" is chock-full of information vital to the aspiring Costellophile.

Taking Liberties, a great collection of choice singles that weren't meant to be on an album, is basically a ripoff. There are some things you can't cover up with lipstick and powder, but this is one well worth hearing. So don't buy it. Tape it if you have a tape deck, request it on 'BCN if you have a radio, play it on the kazoo if you have to, but don't miss it. That's a liberty you can't afford to take.


The Tufts Daily, October 8, 1980

D.S. Stone reviews Taking Liberties.


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