The Very Best Of Elvis Costello (Single Disc Edition) – Compilation Album

The Front Cover

The Front Cover

I am reviewing the single disc edition of this 1999 “Best Of” album. It is the one readily available in South America, and it is actually quite reminiscent of other Costello anthologies that summarize his years with The Attractions like the one that was released in 1994 by Rykodisc.

Out of 20 tracks, only 6 do not feature this classic band. They are “Watching The Detectives” and “Alison” (from Elvis’ debut, where he was backed by a band named Clover), “Good Year For The Roses”, and his Bacharach collaboration “God Give Me Strength” (the key tune of the 1996’s movie “Grace Of My Heart”, and the recipient of a Grammy Award). Likewise, the elegiac “Indoor Fireworks” (with Costello backed by “The Confederates”, a band featuring Mitchell Froom) is included. The final non-Attractions song is “She”, Costello’s rendering of the best-loved Charles Aznavour song about the duality of love. The song was a very big hit in South America – Costello is always requested to perform it when he tours these latitudes, and the song is found in countless love compilations sold here to this day.

The remaining 14 songs give listeners a very good taster of the man who shone as a composer par excellence, backed by his best unit. The songs are presented in non-lineal order, but that order is somehow more chronological here than on the 2-disc set. The single disc splits the different stages of his career pretty well, and the “early” songs are grouped together on the first half of the CD: the opener is “(What’s So Funny ‘Bout) Peace, Love & Understanding”, and it is followed by “Oliver’s Army” and then “Watching The Detectives”.

Classic Elvis Costello & The Attractions:

One Of The Best Ballads From The Compilation, About The Falklands War:

A song that maybe could have been omitted is “Tokyo Storm Warning”, especially as it is a lengthy composition that is not instantly likeable, and which could have been replaced by some shorter songs such as “High Fidelity” or “New Amsterdam”

Still, the album is a true appetizer that gives a good indication of the main course and the dessert that those who decide to explore Elvis’ catalog are treated to, without ever leaving the listener indigested. I dare say this single-disc version is more appealing than its two-disc counterpart, if only because the emphasis is on his “best” classic work with The Attractions and the 6 excursions are warranted, showing other facets of the man, and good facets at that. It is also a better disc than “Extreme Honey” (1997), a compilation that chronicles his Warner Years. The single disc has absolutely no overlap with that one, and that makes the two of them compatible (the two-disc version overlaps quite a bit). But if you want to have a focused image of an artist that never lost his edge, “The Very Best Of Elvis Costello” is the one you should pick up first. Either that, or any of the anthologies focused on his early work with The Attractions (the ones released in 1985 and 1994 by Columbia and Rykodisc respectively fit the bill quite well).

Would I recommend purchase of this compilation: Yes

Do I feel like digging deeper into his catalog after listening to it: Yes