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Music Review: Elvis Costello And The Attractions – This Year’s Model (Deluxe Edition)

First released 30 years ago in March of 1978, This Year's Model was the second album by Elvis Costello and his first with The Attractions. It was primarily recoded at the Eden Studios in West London between late 1977 and early 1978. The original album ran at just over 35 minutes and became one of the best albums of all time; in 2003 Rolling Stone magazine ranked it number 98 of the 500 greatest albums of all time.

Elvis Costello, born Declan Patrick MacManus, and taking his moniker from Elvis Presley and his great grandmother's name, signed with Stiff Records and in 1977 released a solo album My Aim Is True, which had some success with the song "Alison," and even more with "Watching the Detectives."

Now comes This Year's Model: Deluxe Edition. With this, the Hip-O/UMe version being the third reissue in the past 15 years, the question is: Does this reissue bring anything new to the table? This is a two disk set that, in my opinion, was done right.

First you have the original tracks from the studio album set in its entirety as it was meant to be heard. Next you have additional B-sides and alternate versions including three demo versions that are just Costello with a guitar and no band so it sounds like he originally played it.

Then disk two is a concert from live at the Warner Theater in Washington DC from February 28, 1978. Keep in mind that this album was released in March of 1978. So these are songs that are fresh and new and haven't had much play. Out of the 17 tracks on the live CD, only one, "Chemistry Class", has ever been released before. So, unlike prior reissues, there is some new material here. This was taped on the Starfleet mobile studio and originally broadcast on WHFS in Maryland.

The original album is as fresh today as it was 30 years ago. You have the poster boy for the punk rock movement with his snarly tongue, biting off the heads of the establishment, and delivering the kind of harsh one liners that haven't been heard since Dylan; and all this at a snowball's pace in an avalanche. The album was produced by rocker Nick Lowe.

The B-sides have been released before in other collections, and still retain the same quality of sound as the main release. The live CD brings the feeling of the show to the music — more energized and vibrant. As I said, this concert took place before the actual release of the album and so it has that feeling of something new. You can hear it in the crowd and you can hear it in the band.

The question then becomes should you get This Years Model: Deluxe Edition? Certainly if you are an Elvis Costello fan and collect everything, of course. If you don't have any of the reissues, definitely it is a must buy. If you have one of the prior releases, it then becomes a matter of taste and budget. Personally, I think that the addition of the Warner concert makes it worth while and so I eagerly recommend this album.

About T. Michael Testi

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