Welcome back, me! Took some time off to get my head sorted out (thanks Mike, Dan, Sarah, Kelli, Jesus, et al.) and now I’m about to take some liberties with this.
Elvis Costello‘s Taking Liberties was a 1980 compilation put out by Columbia Records here in the States to bring together 20 tunes that had escaped US ears. From his first album through his fourth (Get Happy!!, earlier in ’80), EC and the Attractions had released numerous B-sides, soundtrack tunes and various other recordings and his US label wisely issued them on one piece of vinyl.
When I discovered Taking Liberties it was the answer to my (17-year old) prayers! No more scouring my local record shop for costly import singles, no more writing to shops in NYC that I found in the back pages of Trouser Press or NY Rocker for singles they’d probably already sold out of… Now I had an hour of rarities that I could listen to over and over and not wear out the way singles inevitably would. The cover, suitably, showed Elvis outside of an American telephone booth (instead of a red British one), ostensibly writing the album’s title across the cover. Clever. On the back was a note from the record label’s A&R guy telling us of the variety of types of songs that were inside and how “the fabulous Attractions add a fiery vigor to many of Elvis’s numbers.” Inside, the inner sleeve gave up all the info about the songs and where they could originally be found – a handy reference in the pre-Internet and Wikipedia days! The record itself had a parody of Columbia’s old labels, and that was cool, too.
Luckily, the music on Taking Liberties was as exciting as the presentation. All kinds of great songs were on it, from rockers like “Clean Money” and “Big Tears” to moody outings like “Hoover Factory” and “Ghost Train.” And the Attractions never let me down, either, really digging in to “Tiny Steps,” “Crawling to the U.S.A.” and many more. I can’t tell you how much this album meant to me! It was like a second volume of Get Happy!!, which also had 20 songs on it. That’s 40 new songs in one year. Crikey!
This reissue comes from Universal Music, where Elvis currently licenses his earlier works, and it sounds quite good. I can hear all kinds of things in the songs that the kinda krappy-sounding original masked. I think once the initial crackles that come with a new record rid theirselves of my vinyl I’ll be even happier. As the original liner note sums up, “Elvis clearly demonstrates here that his potential and versatility are practically unlimited.” Well said, Gregg Geller, wherever you are.