While there have been previous, not to mention extensive, archival reissues of Elvis Costello’s discography in recent years, the third one begun earlier in 2007 may end up being the best of the lot. At least if subsequent titles demonstrate the comprehensive logic of My Aim Is True 30th Anniversary Deluxe Edition.
This two CD set homes in on Costello’s earliest work with the band known as The Attractions who would soon rate marquee billing on subsequent studio albums. One disc of this double-set offers a full live show plus excerpts from a sound check for the same appearance at London’s The Nashville Rooms. This is in addition, of course, to a remastered version of the studio debut My Aim Is True, recorded largely with a California journeyband called Clover and overseen by Stiff Records labelmate Nick Lowe.
The production there is perhaps careful to a fault, but clearly designed to highlight Costello’s songwriting skills, as that’s what got him signed in the first place. Outtakes from the sessions as well as demos recorded prior to the formal recordings capture the infectious yet erudite Costello as well as provide perspective: country influences that dominate “Radio Sweetheart” would eventually surface on Almost Blue.
In contrast, the concert recording ratchets up the nervy nasty attitude of songs like “Miracle Man” because The Attractions– drummer Pete Thomas, keyboardist Steve Nieve and bassist Bruce Thomas– play with such an edge. The musicianship is as incisive as the words of something like “Night Rally,” so it’s not any surprise many tunes like “Radio Radio” would appear on subsequent studio work with this quartet, in a similarly stripped down fashion.
If comparable Elvis Costello Deluxe Editions are to come, with their own graphics stylishly congruent with the original releases, this latest reissue series will, in a very real way, render its predecessors obsolete.