Friday, May 16, 2008

Elvis Costello 5: Taking Liberties

With the differences between American and British versions of his first three albums, plus several B-sides and EP tracks taking up space in the import racks, Elvis had amassed more than enough for a “rarities” compilation. The UK version (Ten Bloody Marys & Ten How’s Your Fathers) was initially released only on cassette, but Columbia in the US put a little more interest into the Taking Liberties LP. Each boasted twenty songs—just like Get Happy!! And of course, the albums were different: Ten Bloody Marys sported the three singles added to the US albums (“Watching The Detectives”, “Radio, Radio” and “(What’s So Funny ‘Bout) Peace, Love And Understanding”), while Taking Liberties includes “Night Rally”, “(I Don’t Want To Go To) Chelsea” and “Sunday’s Best”. Well, two out of three ain’t bad.
Some of the songs made it all too clear why they’d been left off albums, but those who hadn’t been chasing down singles and imports had several new favorites to smile about. “Radio Sweetheart” and “Stranger In The House” give hints of a Nashville influence that would resurface all too soon, while a brief solo “My Funny Valentine” and the aching “Just A Memory” show his sensitive side. An alternate take of “Clowntime Is Over” cuts the pace in half, and is arguably as good as the standard version. “Big Tears” and “Tiny Steps” are similar B-sides as good as their A-sides. Any band would be happy to have leftovers of this quality.
While Taking Liberties is out of print (as is Ten Bloody Marys), it was made available as a digital download in September 2008, and the seventeen common songs can all be found on various Rykodisc and Rhino versions of My Aim Is True, This Year’s Model, Armed Forces and Get Happy!! (The Hip-O Deluxe Editions of My Aim Is True and This Year’s Model include some of these tracks as well.) The six swapped songs from the first three albums are on their respective CDs, reissued by Hip-O in 2007.

Elvis Costello Taking Liberties (1980)—
Current CD availability: none; download only

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