Friday, March 28, 2008

Elvis Costello 1: My Aim Is True

From that grainy cover photo of a spotty, knock-kneed geek, My Aim Is True establishes a persona for the man who took the stage name of Elvis Costello, and it’s a persona he’s been trying to ditch ever since. The album, recorded in spurts with the unlikely backing of a California band that would one day mutate into Huey Lewis & The News, presents a portrait of an angry young man who can’t understand why his attitude puts people off. It’s an image that would resonate with many who would spend the next thirty-plus years hanging on his every spit-out word.
While several tracks had appeared as singles prior to the album’s release, their inclusion here enhances the overall quality. “Welcome To The Working Week” is a crashing overture, followed by the musically diverse romantic commentaries of “Miracle Man” and “No Dancing”. “Alison” remains a tender favorite to this day, undoubtedly causing discomfort for countless women finding themselves the object of unwanted lust. “(The Angels Wanna Wear My) Red Shoes” and “Blame It On Cain” inspire singalongs as well, despite their abstract lyrics. “Less Than Zero” would confuse many American listeners, prompting a new set of surreal verses for that audience’s benefit down the road. “Watching The Detectives”, a single included on the US LP, channels television through white reggae. And “Mystery Dance”, with its retro-rock feel and itchy mood, remains one of the best commentaries on sexual education and the lack thereof. The album is a strong debut for a varied career, though one still wishes for the tighter sound the Attractions would bring to his later albums.
My Aim Is True has now been reissued three times, with varying reactions. The 1993 Rykodisc version is the same as the 1977 LP (with “Detectives” at the end), plus nine extra tracks, including B-sides and several “pre-professional” recordings. The 2001 Rhino version features the original LP (plus “Detectives”) on one disc, with the nine extra Ryko tracks and four additional rare tracks on the other. The 2007 Hip-O “Deluxe Edition” is yet another two-CD set: the LP, plus “Detectives”, a few of the extras (but none of the “pre-professional” recordings) from the Rhino and several unreleased demos on one; and a complete 1977 concert with selections from the soundcheck on the other, performed by Elvis with his new band, the Attractions, of whom we would be hearing lots, lots more. The Deluxe Edition is recommended for diehards who don’t mind buying the album an additional time, but the “pre-professional recordings” on the Ryko and Rhino versions make them preferable.

Elvis Costello My Aim Is True (1977)—4
1993 Rykodisc: same as 1977, plus 9 extra tracks
2001 Rhino: same as 1993, plus 4 extra tracks
2007 Hip-O Deluxe Edition: same as 1977, plus 35 extra tracks


  1. ah! elvis. you do make me wish i had listened to him more.
    what album did you pull that song you sent me from? the one that the chorus is "it's going round town. you're so over!"
    you can write about elvis's career for a long time. it's interesting

  2. "Lovable" is from King Of America. As in "You're so lovable."

  3. hmmm. the old ears ain't what they used to be, huh?