08/31/07
Reviews by - Lindsay Planer

This week we're gonna go back in time with the down low on the recent upgrades of Elvis Costello and The Rascals essential and respective back catalogues.


Elvis Costello -- The Best of Elvis Costello: The First 10 Years (Hip-O/UMe)
Elvis Costello -- Rock and Roll Music (Hip-O/UMe)
Elvis Costello -- Elvis Costello Collector's Box Set (Hip-OUMe)

Both The Best Of Elvis Costello: The First 10 Years and Rock And Roll Music are single CD anthologies kicking off a massive reissue campaign that will eventually restore the artists' entire library. On the other hand, the Elvis Costello Collector's Box Set is perfect for parties considering picking up the whole lot. This debut phase features the luminous Costello long players: My Aim Is True (1977), This Year's Model (1978), Armed Forces (1979), Get Happy!! (1980), Almost Blue (1981), Trust (1981), Imperial Bedroom (1982), Punch The Clock (1983), Goodbye Cruel World (1984), King Of America (1986) and Blood And Chocolate (1986).

Each title has been meticulously refurbished to replicate both the sonic and visual elements of their vinyl counterparts. 

At Costello's request there are no unreleased or supplementary selections, however, the newly-compiled Rock And Roll Music (2007) is notable for the previously unreleased demo of "Welcome to the Working Week" and an alternate version of "Honey, Are You Straight Or Are You Blind?". Otherwise, the remaining 20 tracks -- all of which were hand-picked by 'The Big E' himself -- provide a perfect proto-punk primer for those interested in hearing Costello at his most raucous. Included are "Lipstick Vogue," "Pump It Up," "Girls Talk," and live renditions of "Mystery Dance" and "You Belong To Me," to name but a few.

As the title suggests, The Best Of Elvis Costello: The First 10 Years gathers 22 'hits' and treasured deep cuts. "Alison," "Watching The Detectives," "(I Don't Want To Go To) Chelsea," "Radio, Radio," "Accidents Will Happen," "Clubland," "Everyday I Write The Book" and "Shipbuilding" are among those present and accounted for.

 Plus, purchasers of either The Best Of Elvis Costello: The First 10 Years or Rock And Roll Music will be treated to a host of on-line exclusives, such as free bonus material that will not be offered anywhere else.

 

The Young Rascals -- Complete Atlantic Records Catalogue (Collector's Choice Music)

On behalf of Rascals fans worldwide, thank you Collectors' Choice Music for seeing (or perhaps more accurately hearing) the value in releasing both the stereo and mono mixes of The Young Rascals (1966), Collections (1966), Groovin' (1967) and Once upon a Dream (1967). For the first time anywhere, they can now be heard the way they were meant to sound. Here is an album-by-album rundown:

You certainly don't have to be an oldie-but-goodie yourself to appreciate the string of unforgettable melodies that Felix Cavaliere (organ/vocals), Eddie Brigati (vocals) -- the band's primary tunesmiths -- Gene Cornish (guitar) and Dino Danelli (drums) unleashed during their reign. Their eponymous debut contained the definitive rock classics "Good Lovin'," "I Ain't Gonna Eat Out My Heart Anymore" and "Do You Feel It," that sit side-by-side with strong remakes of R&B standards "Slow Down," "Mustang Sally" and "In The Midnight Hour."

Collections -- which came out mere months later -- was universally lauded thanks in part to "Lonely Too Long," "Come On Up" and "Love Is A Beautiful Thing". They perfectly complement the Young Rascals reinvention of the soul stirrer "Land of 1,000 Dances," as well as the Motown-influenced "Too Many Fish in the Sea" and "Mickey's Monkey."

Groovin' would have been remembered as a bona fide gem if for nothing else but the title track. But once again, the quartet came up with a hit-filled package that is highlighted by "How Can I Be Sure," "A Girl Like You" and the antagonistic "You Better Run" -- which practically leaps out of the speakers in the monaural mix.

 Once Upon A Dream took its cue from the evolving psychedelic scene, yielding the arty and introspective "Rainy Day," "Silly Girl," "My World," and the power pop of "It's Wonderful". The combo began working with additional musicians to add richer textures behind increasingly complex arrangements. This was likewise the last long player to have been issued in stereo and mono -- which are quite different from one another.

Freedom Suite was the only Rascals double-LP set and the additional running time gave the band an opportunity to respond to the political situation befalling America as the 1960s were coming to a close. The powerful "People Got to Be Free," became a positive social statement, joining "Heaven" and "Ray Of Hope" as the album's other Top 40 entries. Other not-be-be-missed cuts include the haunting "Love Was So Easy To Give" and their triumphant return to blue-eyed soul on "Baby I'm Blue". 

As the '70s began, The Rascals started to veer further away from tighter arrangements and muscular pop songs. Lavish orchestrations and a distinct Eastern philosophy -- reflecting Cavaliere's concurrent interest -- surfaced throughout. Clearly the change did not sit well with all the personnel as See would be the last project with the founding line-up intact. And although the tracks "See" and the gospel-imbibed "Carry Me Back" proved to be hits, the band's fate was inevitable.

Their concluding Atlantic Records release became mired in the loss of co-founder Brigati, who departed before the project was completed. Age has certainly been kinder to Search and Nearness than the press or public were at the time of its release. The contrast in styles is evident from the rougher funky feel of the opener "Right On" all the way through to the inspired  "Glory Glory" -- with backing vocals from Cissy Houston.

For more information on these -- and the rest of Collectors' Choice Music exclusive reissues -- point and click your way to www.ccmusic.com.


Lindsay Planer is a freelance journalist based out of the Piedmont of North Carolina. He's a  frequent contributor to All Music Guide, All Movie Guide, CrutchfieldAdvisor.com and the Gaston Gazette.
All comments and questions are encouraged and can be sent to <asthediscspins@earthlink.net>.


 

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