Name: “Taking Liberties”
Artist: Elvis Costello
Release date: 1980
Favorite track: “Radio Sweetheart”
Elvis Costello is my favorite songwriter.
I’m a fool for Paul McCartney, but I can’t live without Costello’s music. I always refer to him as a famous hidden gem, tucked casually among bigger names such as McCartney, Elton John and Bruce Springsteen.
His music often falls between the cracks, but all his songs are well written with commercial appeal. In other words, each is a hit.
My favorite records of his are “My Aim is True,” released in 1977; “This Year’s Model,” released in 1978, “Imperial Bedroom,” released in 1982 and “Punch the Clock,” released in 1983.
“Taking Liberties” is a compilation of tracks unreleased in the U.S. Some were recorded with his band, Elvis Costello & the Attractions, and many are featured on his 1980 record, “Get Happy!!”
It’s a hefty album with 10 songs on each side. It offers a heart-capturing blend of pop rock, punk rock and classic rock.
Basically, it rocks.
The opening track, “Clean Money,” is so British punk it hurts. The fast-paced track is an anthem perfect for payday — entertaining, but not my favorite.
“Girls Talk” and “Talking in the Dark” are classic Costello. He wails and enhances his consonants in the mid-tempo tracks. Linda Ronstadt recorded both songs. Dave Edmunds recorded “Girls Talk,” and all three versions are different.
“Radio Sweetheart” feels inspired. This upbeat country-rock track has lyrics charming beyond belief.
My head is spinning and my legs are weak
Goose step dancing, can’t hear myself speak
Hope in the eyes of the ugly girls
That settle for the lies of the last chancers
When slow motion drunks pick wallflower dancers
— “Radio Sweetheart”
“Stranger in the House” also falls easily into the country genre. These country songs suit Costello’s lyrical style and the sultry, deep side of his voice.
This never was one of the great romances
But I thought you’d always have those young girl’s eyes
But now they look in tired and bitter glances
At the ghost of a man who walks ‘round in my disguise
— “Stranger in the House”
“Just a Memory” is the first slow track on the album, but it isn't overly sad. I love the following lyrics: With the tempo of today and the temptation of tomorrow, I don’t know if I could give you anything but sorrow.
“Getting Mighty Crowded” is the most classic rock 'n’ roll. I can practically hear Elvis Presley.
“Hoover Factory” and "(I Don’t Want to Go to) Chelsea” are more experimental. They sound like the '80s.
If you don’t enjoy songs that feel like they go on for hours — looking at you, Pink Floyd — then give this album a listen. None of the songs reach three-and-a-half minutes.
The lyrics are what this album does right. I recommend this compilation for Costello fans. But, if this artist is new to you, start with “My Aim is True,”
All of Costello’s 1970s and 1980s album covers declare him the world’s coolest British-rock nerd. His outward persona embodies his punchy pop-rock musicality.
With his signature thick-rimmed glasses and suit and tie, he reminds me of Patrick Dempsey’s role, Ronald Miller, in the 1987 film “Can’t Buy Me Love.” Both, in turn, remind me of Will Toledo, the tongue-in-cheek lyricist slash crackling vocalist for indie-rock band Car Seat Headrest.
I love his style, and the fact that this album cover features a telephone booth makes it even more nostalgic. The pastel colors and font of the typography are timeless.
Hey, I'm Savannah. I collect records, and they collect dust. Like my preferred media form, I strive to not become obsolete. I created Off the Record as a way to turn my mind inside out, into something visual and tangible. One is the loneliest number, so I asked my friends to join.