189. Elvis Costello – “The Very Best of Elvis Costello”

The poor Attractions have been shafted. Their name has disappeared from this compilation despite accompanying Mr.Costello on multiple tracks here. Seems like something they should have fought him about, especially since it would appear they were there for all the killer.

Album Cover Elvis Costello Very Best ofBut I’m not going to sweat too much about their disenfranchisement. I suspect Elvis C. is a bit of a one-man business, with much of the responsibility and credit deservedly flowing his way.

This compendium does certainly showcase his powers. He knows how to mix it up, jumping from one classic pop form to another. He unashamedly borrows from reggae, showtunes, boogie woogie and beyond. When he gets it right, it’s a real treat. For mine, I Want You is one of the truly outstanding songs ever written. It is so brutally raw, and its length and increasingly desperate vibe captures the plaintive, bewildering prospects of obsession and love:

Well, that’s a bit heavy for this blog. Elsewhere, Pump it Up and Chelsea are gems for the time. The album does fall away when Costello gets all jazzy and indulgent. As a crooner, he doesn’t cut it, and his covers of Bacharach and co are just plain embarrassing.

Nevertheless, this is a worthwhile collection.

File under: Better than most

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