Sunday, 6 November 2016

"My Aim Is True: Originals Series" by ELVIS COSTELLO (2007 Hip-O/UMC 'Originals' CD Remaster In A Digipak With Booklet and Obi - Dan Hersch Remaster) - A Review by Mark Barry...

"...I'm Not Going To Get Too Sentimental..."

Elvis Costello's debut (like much of his catalogue for the Seventies and Eighties) has been reissued to a point where fans will yawn and newcomers turn their eyes and ears elsewhere.

For this review I'm concentrating on the American 'Originals' CD Series put out by Universal's Hip-O Records in May 2007 (aka Hip-O Select) where eleven albums were Remastered to CD and presented in Artwork-Repro Digipaks with new booklets (most sans any bonus material – just the LP). The series started with the 1977 debut "My Aim Is True" and ran through to 1986's "Blood And Chocolate" (see list below). Here are the sneaky details and the original sins...

US released 1 May 2007 - "My Aim Is True: Originals Series" by ELVIS COSTELLO on Hip-O Records/Universal Music Company (UMC) B0008635-02 (Barcode 602517260863) is a 13-Track CD Remaster of the 1977 American LP on Columbia Records. The UK LP on Stiff Records had only 12-tracks ("Watching The Detectives" was originally only a 7" single in the UK) but was added to the end of Side 1 of the US LP (hence the 13-tracks). This CD Remaster plays out as follows (36:48 minutes):

1. Welcome To My Working Work
2. Miracle Man
3. No Dancing
4. Blame It On Cain
5. Alison
6. Sneaky Feelings
7. (The Angels Wanna Wear My) Red Shoes [Side 2]
8. Less Than Zero
9. Mystery Dance
10. Pay It Back
11. I'm Not Angry
12. Waiting For The End Of The World
13. Watching The Detectives
Tracks 1 to 12 are the UK debut LP "My Aim Is True" - released July 1977 in the UK on Stiff Records SEEZ 3. "Watching The Detectives" was issued October 1977 in the UK as a 7" single only (A-side) but was added on as an extra track (end of Side 1 after "Sneaky Feelings") on the March 1978 US reissue LP on Columbia Records JC 35037. Produced by NICK LOWE.

The Band for Tracks 1 to 12 were:
ELVIS COSTELLO - Lead and Backing Vocals, Guitars, Piano and Drumsticks on "Mystery Dance"
JOHN McFEE - Guitar and Pedal Steel
SEAN HOPPER - Piano, Organ, Backing Vocals
JOHNNY CIAMBOTTI - Bass and Backing Vocals
NICK LOWE - Backing Vocals, Bass, Drums and Drumsticks on "Mystery Dance"

Band for "Watching The Detectives" was:
ELVIS COSTELLO - Vocals and Guitar
STEVE NIEVE - Organ and Piano Overdubs

The 'Originals' card digipak is hardly anything to write home about and its glued-on Obi even obscures the track list on the rear cover (and the inner gatefold is simply all yellow - a bad waste of space). The 12-page booklet has all the lyrics - original album recording credits and reissue details - it's good but without any history of the album and its making it's hardly great. The Remaster was carried out by Rhino's longtime Audio Engineer DAN HERSCH and is a mixed bag of brill and brash.

Production wise "My Aim Is True" the LP has always felt a bit 'all over the place'. The Remaster reflects the source material. Some tracks have stunning clarity while others just feel wrong and I'd have to say that this Remaster has only highlighted 'both'. From the moment "Working Week" hits the speakers - you can hear the taught band but the deliberately distanced vocals take away from the impact. Some tracks though are absolutely stunning - the sheer drum wallop coming from "Waiting For The End Of The World" is amazing and yet that guitar feels even more disconnected. Even though it's brash "Blame It On The Cain" feels incredible - that fantastic staccato beat as Elvis sings about Government burglars taking away his dosh.

Three in a row with great sound are the beautiful ballad "Alison" with the LP's title amidst its lyrics - the catchy "Sneaky Feelings" (can't let them show) and the lyrically acidic "(The Angels Wanna Wear My) Red Shoes" where EC used to be disgusted but now he's just amused. "Less Than Zero" is absolutely huge on this remaster - amazing clarity (as is "Watching The Detectives") - and I hear South America is coming into style. There is a 2007 2CD 'Deluxe Edition' with shed loads more on offer and flashier presentation (outtakes, B-sides, live material) - but I like the simplicity of just the album.

I'm constantly amazed at how good Costello's first foray was and still is - a stunning debut album that announced the arrival of a major songwriting talent (coming up on its 40th Anniversary in November 2017).

I will get sentimental about "My Aim Is True" – warts and all - I f***ing love it...

May 2007 ELVIS COSTELLO 'Originals' CD Series of Reissues:
1. My Aim Is True (1977) - Hip-O Records B0008635-02 (Barcode 602517260863)
2. This Year’s Model (1978) – Hip-O Records B0008638-02 (Barcode 602517260894)
3. Armed Forces (1978) – Hip-O Records B0008630-02 (Barcode 602517260818)
4. Get Happy!! (1980) - Hip-O Records B0008632-02 (Barcode 602517260832)
5. Almost Blue (1981) - Hip-O Records B0008628-02 (Barcode 602517260573)
6. Trust (1981) - Hip-O Records B0008639-02 (Barcode 602517260900)
7. Imperial Bedroom (1982) – Hip-O Records B0008634-02 (Barcode 602517260856)
8. Punch The Clock (1983) – Hip-O Records B0008636-02 (Barcode ?)
9. Goodbye Cruel World (1984) – Hip-O Records B0008633-02 (Barcode 602517260849)
10. King Of America (1986) – Hip-O Records B0008637-02 (Barcode 602517260887)
11. Blood and Chocolate (1986) – Hip-O Records B0008631-02 (Barcode 602517260825)

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Spines of Exceptional CD Remasters

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