Sunday, September 16, 2007

Elvis Costello- My Aim Is True (Deluxe Edition)

Date: 9/17/2007

Well, here we are again. Elvis Costello has re-released his debut album, My Aim Is True just in time for its 30th anniversary. This is not uncommon, most bands reissue key albums at some point in their career. It’s a good way to bring new fans into the fold and reward hardcore fans at the same time. However, this is the third time in 15 years that Costello has re-released My Aim Is True. This begs the question, is the new deluxe edition of My Aim Is True worth it?

If you don’t own a copy of My Aim Is True, you should know the answer to that question. Three decades after its original release, it remains one of the greatest debuts in music history. With biting cynicism and an encyclopedic knowledge of pop music, Costello created songs that have become standards. “Alison,” “Watching the Detectives”and“Less Than Zero” have not aged. Like all great debuts, there is a sense of greatness as if you know that the artist will continue to grow. So if you’ve never heard this record, the deluxe version provides the perfect excuse.

If you are already a Costello devotee, the answer is not as clear cut. What sets this reissue apart from the 1993 Rykodisc edition or the 2002 Rhino edition? The good news is that there isn’t much overlap. The demo versions of “No Action” and “Living in Paradise” are still present, as are the outtakes. One of those outtakes, “Radio Sweetheart,” is a classic in its own right. However, the song’s country twang doesn’t fit in within the album’s pub rock parameters. The first disc also contains Costello’s demos for Pathway Studios. Four of the songs on the demo tape are unreleased, but while they are good, none of them are forgotten classics.

The second disc is a live concert, recorded in 1977. This is the incentive for the hardcore fan to purchase this disc. Costello takes the stage backed by The Attractions, and the concert serves as a bridge between My Aim is True and This Year’s Model. Many of the tunes that would appear on This Year’s Model are on the setlist, and it’s interesting to hear them in their early form. The Attractions sound tight and professional, but haven’t quite gelled. Within a year they would become a force to be reckoned with, but at this point they are still feeling each other out.

The deluxe edition is not without its flaws. Rhino’s 2002 reissue contained a wonderful essay by Costello, along with several paragraphs explaining the various outtakes and B-sides. The booklet in this reissue just contains the lyrics and a few photos. The Rhino edition also contained nine unreleased songs that are nowhere to be found on this set. Because of this gap, there is still no definitive version of My Aim is True.

Despite its shortcomings, the deluxe edition of My Aim Is True is worth a purchase, both for hardcore and casual fans alike. The album itself remains timeless, and the live concert provides a fascinating glimpse of an artist trying to find himself as a performer. One question must be addressed however: Will the album be worth buying a fourth time? I certainly hope not.

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