This month brought the release of two compilations of the work of Elvis Costello from Hip-O Records. As a diehard 1970s Elvis fan, I was delighted to have the chance to review these releases.
I have to admit, I was skeptical about the first one, The Best of Elvis Costello: The First 10 Years. As with most compilations of music from that period, I was certain something would be left out. “I bet it won’t have ‘Chelsea,’ that’s my favorite and no one ever thinks of it.” I scoffed. Well, every one I assumed they wouldn’t have was there. It starts out somewhat quietly with “Red Shoes” and the only ballad I’ve ever loved, “Allison,” then quickly picks up speed with “Watching the Detectives.” It continues with two of my most-loved Elvis tunes, “Chelsea” and “Pump it Up.” Then there is the round up of more big hits such as “Oliver’s Army” to “(What's So Funny 'Bout) Peace, Love & Understanding?”
From there it goes into what I refer to as his “less angry stage.” Beginning with Get Happy, things began to change with Elvis’ music, and I began to lose interest. However, I loved 1982’s Imperial Bedroom. It was so brooding and really showcased his unparalleled skill as a lyricist. Luckily this compilation includes one of the best songs from that album, “Beyond Belief.” I mean, check these out. Just brilliant:
- History repeats the old conceits
The glib replies the same defeats
Keep your finger on important issues
With crocodile tears and a pocketful of tissues
I'm just the oily slick
In the windup world with a nervous tick
In a very fashionable hovel
I hang around dying to be tortured
You'll never be alone in the bone orchard
This battle with the bottle is nothing so novel
So in this almost empty gin palace
Through a two-way looking glass
You see your Alice
You know she has no sense
For all your jealousy
In a sense she still smiles very sweetly
Charged with insults and flattery
Her body moves with malice
Do you have to be so cruel to be callous.
The album continues with selections from Punch the Clock, King of America and Blood & Chocolate. But again, I am more of a connoisseur of his first five years, and the selections from this period are perfect. But I’m sure fans of the entire ten years will not be disappointed.
The other Elvis album released this month is entitled Rock and Roll Music, and this release is comprised of the type of music that holds my interest. There is no starting quietly for this collection, it hits the ground running with the energetic “Lipstick Vogue” and then goes on to “No Action.” We are then treated to “Big Tears,” and “Chelsea.”