CD Almost You: The Songs of Elvis Costello [Digipak] (CD 6267674),
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Almost You: The Songs of Elvis Costello [Digipak]
1. Green Shirt
2. (The Angels Wanna Wear My) Red Shoes
3. Busy Bodies - Fastball
4. No Action
5. Still Too Soon To Know - The Damnations
6. Alison - Mr. Keneipp/Mrs. Keneipp/Jack Logan/Vic Chesnutt
7. Blue Chair
8. Watch Your Step
9. Beyond Belief
10. Men Called Uncle - The Deathray Davies
11. Indoor Fireworks - Kev Russell's Junker
12. Just A Memory
13. Riot Act
14. Sleep Of The Just - The Mendoza Line
Manufacturer Part Number (MPN): BRNCD133
Contains an untitled hidden track following "Sleep Of The Just".
Recording information: Adult Audio Megaplex, Austin, TX; Backburner Studios, Winder, GA; BB Studioplex, Austin, TX; Edge Of The World Studios, Dallas, TX; Fliptone Studio, Hoboken, NJ; Ma, Cheesier! Studioplex, Austin, TX; Minerstreet/Cyclesound, Philadelphia, PA; STratosphere Sound, New York, NY; Sweet Tea, Osford, MS.
Amazingly, with the flood of tribute records that has washed over record stores in the past few years, this is the first newly recorded tribute to the songs of Elvis Costello. The 15 artists and bands are strictly indie rock, many of them from the American south. Most of the tracks they cover are from Costello's early salad days as an angry young man (three from My Aim Is True, one from This Year's Model, two from Armed Forces, one from Trust, three from Get Happy!!, and one from Imperial Bedroom) with a couple from later records (one from Blood & Chocolate, three from King of America, and one from Brutal Youth). As with any tribute collection, you are going to find the good, the bad, and the imitators. Most of the groups here don't take many liberties, but only a couple go for full-on imitations; Fastball's Tony Scalzo's vocals sound eerily like a young Costello on a reverent take of "Busy Bodies," and Grand Champeen attempts to rock out on "No Action," but despite the volume and good intentions, sounds about one-tenth as mean and messed up as Costello's original. There are plenty of good interpretations to be found here. Matt Pond PA kicks off the disc with the best track here, a lovely cello-driven take on "Green Shoes," with Matt Pond's vocals recalling the snarling spirit of Costello without aping him. Damnation's take on Brutal Youth's "Still Too Soon to Know" is spare and beautiful, featuring a wrenching lead vocal from Deborah Kelly. "Alison" is a song that could easily lend itself to mawkishness, but Vic Chesnutt and Jack Logan do a fairly straightforward, un-over-emotional version backed by guitar and piano. Lil' Cap'n Travis gives "Blue Chair" from Blood & Chocolate a sweeping orchestral country feel with plenty of swooping pedal steel and a healthy dose of glockenspiel. One of the delights of a good collection like this is discovering new bands. Lil' Cap'n Travis is one to keep an eye out for. Fellow obscure indie group the Deathray Davies turn in a spirited take on "Men Called Uncle" and the Mendoza Line end the record in fine style with a Shannon McArdle-sung version of "Sleep of the Just" from King of America that should send listeners straight out to buy all of the Mendoza Line's fine records. There are not really any bad tracks, only a few that don't work very well in context; Brenda Kahn over-sings on "Watch Your Step," Tywanna Jo Baskette monotonally under-sings on "Just a Memory," Okerrvil River's wavering, over-emotional vocals sink an otherwise interesting version of "Riot Act," and Kev Russell's Junker's yodeling version of "Indoor Fireworks" isn't bad really, it just sounds out of place here. Four less-than-great songs don't sink this ship, however. It is a highly listenable disc throughout and sometimes even quite good. Costello should be proud and anyone who is a fan should be sure to check this collection out. ~ Tim Sendra
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