While he has been a member of the Rock and Roll Hall Of Fame since 2003, it is still easy for many to dismiss the importance of Elvis Costello’s career in popular music. Many remember him as simply one of the punk/new wave class of ’77 that helped rock music lurch forward to a new era in the late 70’s. His highest charting pop single in the U.S., “Veronica,” barely brushed the top 20 peaking at #19, and his only album to reach the top 10, Armed Forces, stalled at #10. Yet, a strong argument can be made for Costello’s inclusion in any listing of the top 10 rock songwriters of all time. This new comprehensive video collection proves he didn’t ignore the visual element of performance either.
Rhino’s The Right Spectacle: The Very Best Of Elvis Costello – The Videos crams 27 videos, Costello’s own audio commentary, and nearly 70 minutes of rare television footage onto one DVD. As with most video collections that span the careers of artists that have been around for the last 25 years, this collection depicts both the maturation of Elvis Costello as an artist and the maturation of the music video as an art form. Watch young Elvis Costello using his trademark pigeon-toed stumble-walk with his band the Attractions on “(I Don’t Want To Go To) Chelsea” (he’s quoted on the audio track saying “The idea behind most of these videos was to fill the band with vodka and let them loose in a white room’) and then switch to the 1989 hit “Veronica” to watch a relaxed, established artist croon to an elderly woman the song he co-wrote with Paul McCartney about the ravages of Alzheimer’s disease on his grandmother. As far as the evolution of music video, there are leaps from the angular animation of 1979’s “Accidents Will Happen” to 1983’s brilliantly humorous, but highly staged, Di-Charles spoof on “Everyday I Write the Book” to the Nan Goldin-influenced imagery of 1994’s “13 Steps Lead Down.”
A grand bonus to this collection is 70 minutes of various television appearances in Europe. They document both the power of Elvis Costello rocking live, and the unintentional humor of staged television music shows of the late 70’s and early 80’s. If you are one of the many who consider yourself a popular music aficionado but are still missing Elvis Costello in your collection, this DVD set is one of the best of all starting points. If you are a serious Elvis Costello fan you’ve probably already purchased the collection. Once again, Rhino effectively catalogs crucial moments in our popular music history.
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