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My Aim Is True (Deluxe Edition)

Elvis Costello

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Album Review

Given that Universal's 2007 deluxe edition is the third expanded reissue of My Aim Is True, it is a reasonable question to ask whether hardcore fans need to bother with buying the album for a fourth time (or a fifth or sixth, depending how many LPs wore out before CDs) — to ask whether this double-disc reissue offers anything that the previous double-disc reissue on Rhino, released just six years before, does not, since that Rhino edition had only four cuts on it that weren't on the first expanded edition from Demon/Rykodisc in 1993, suggesting that there might not be much in the vaults that Elvis Costello wanted to release. As it turns out, Universal's 48-track deluxe edition of Elvis' 1977 debut has a whopping 29 unreleased tracks, most of them coming in the form of a concert at the Nashville Rooms on August 7, 1977, the entirety of which is on the second disc, along with five songs from the soundcheck, four of which they didn't play in the main gig. The other unreleased cuts are demos recorded at Pathway Studios before the debut album was cut. There are eight of these, all but one previously unreleased ("Welcome to the Working Week" surfaced on the Rock and Roll Music comp released earlier in 2007), among them are four previously unheard tunes: "Blue Minute," "Call on Me," "I Don't Want to Go Home," and "I Hear a Melody." None of these are forgotten classics, but none of them are bad — they're solid, tuneful, clever pub rock that share the same sound and sensibility of the 13 songs that made the finished album, but they're just not as good. They are certainly worthwhile additions to this expanded edition, as is the excellent live second disc, an energetic, thoroughly entertaining show that contains most of My Aim Is True and a good chunk of tunes that would show up on This Year's Model the following year. Appropriately, the concert serves as a bridge between the two albums: it's rougher and rowdier than the debut, but it's not nearly as frenzied, frazzled, and furious as Model — the sensibility is much closer to the pumped-up pub rock of My Aim Is True, only without the polish it received in the studio. So there's plenty of new music here, all of it good-to-excellent — so what is there to complain about? Mainly, that there are nine songs orphaned on the Rhino expanded edition, including all the "Honky Tonk" demos Elvis recorded in his bedroom that were later aired on Charlie Gillett's BBC show Honky Tonk. Among these are four songs not available elsewhere — "Cheap Reward," "Jump Up," "Wave a White Flag," "Poison Moon" — and their absence is regrettable, but they're not as lamented as the lack of the B-side "I Just Don't Know What to Do with Myself," the alternate "Dallas Version" of "Less Than Zero," and the Flip City demo "Imagination (Is a Powerful Deceiver)," which is among the best of his early material not cut for My Aim Is True. Although these two discs are packed — and they do include the early alternate versions of "No Action" and "Living in Paradise," plus "Radio Sweetheart" and "Stranger in the House," two flat-out classics that weren't on the debut because they were too country — it's hard not to be a bit irked that this deluxe edition falls just short of being definitive because of their absence (and the absence of any new or recycled liner notes, for that matter; maybe Costello is tired of writing liners, or saving all future reminiscences for a memoir), because that means any hardcore fan will need to keep two double-disc versions of My Aim Is True in their collection. And let's face it, hardcore fans are the audience that would buy a double-disc reissue of an album, whether it's once or twice. And this 2007 deluxe edition has enough great unheard music to make it worth the investment for hardcore fans, since there is no question at all that they will enjoy this second disc immensely, but whether they enjoy it enough to purchase the album all over again? That's all a matter of personal taste, really, or perhaps personal finances.

Biography

Born: 25 August 1954 in Paddington, London, England

Genre: Rock

Years Active: '70s, '80s, '90s, '00s, '10s

When Elvis Costello's first record was released in 1977, his bristling cynicism and anger linked him with the punk and new wave explosion. A cursory listen to My Aim Is True proves that the main connection that Costello had with the punks was his unbridled passion; he tore through rock's back pages taking whatever he wanted, as well as borrowing from country, Tin Pan Alley pop, reggae, and many other musical genres. Over his career, that musical eclecticism distinguished his records as much as his...
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My Aim Is True (Deluxe Edition), Elvis Costello
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