Monday, November 02, 2009

Elvis Costello - This Years Model

I mean, c'mon; you need ME to tell you this is one of the finest albums of all time??? And you want me to tell you why?? Well, okay, but honestly, the best way for you to discover is to just buy it yourself; you won't be disappointed. For as many albums as this man has put out, this is still his finest hour. After an excellent debut album (My Aim Is True) recorded with the band that would evolve into Huey Lewis & The News, Elvis found THE band that perfectly matched his musical vision: the Attractions. Bruce Thomas, Steve Nieve, and Pete Thomas not only excel as players, they completely take great material and make it PHENOMENAL. The songs are wiry-yet-literate screeds of anger, sarcasm, neurosis, self-doubt, and rebellion. Elvis didn't beg you to like him; he dared you to not like him. "This Year's Girl", "(I Don't Want To Go To) Chelsea", and yes, even the overplayed "Pump It Up" tumble out of your speakers with a tangle of emotions and imagery. But for me, the finest moment is the closing cut on the US version: "Radio Radio". Issued in the UK as a standalone single, Columbia Records tacked this onto the US version of This Years Model (no apostrophe in the title of the album). I think it's a perfect closer for the disc, and I'm glad that since 1994, all CD versions have included both the UK-only "Chelsea" and "Night Rally" and the US-only "Radio Radio".

Which brings me to the real purpose of this blog post: the differences between the original LP releases in both the UK and the US are striking. In the UK, this was an independent label (Radar) release; in the US, it was released by possibly the biggest label you could be on at the time (Columbia). From what I remember, Columbia felt that they'd be "improving" the album by striking the two songs (according to Elvis, Columbia felt those songs' lyrics were "too English", AARGH!!), and adding "Radio Radio". They were right about the latter point, but I think they did US listeners a huge disservice by waiting until the odds-n-sods collection Taking Liberties to release these two cuts. Put all together, the two track configurations when combined make a most-excellent thirteen track monster.

Not only was the tracklist modified for its US release, so was its cover. For any degradation in quality that they accomplished via track deletion, Columbia scored higher points in my book with the alternate photos that they chose for both the front and back covers of the US version of the LP. On the UK version, Elvis seems to be saying, "Now don't bring your hopes up too high; I've never used this camera before." On the US cover, Elvis is hiding his face partially behind the camera; his eyes are open wide. His face seems to be saying, "I'm as excited as all hell about this; look what I have here!!" Which, upon listening to the album, it seems he had a stunner of an album there.

On the rear cover of the UK album, the band is just lolling about. "Here we are, take us or leave us." On the rear of the US album, it would seem that Elvis is putting the delayed-shot timer of that camera on the front cover to use; he's sprinting to get into the frame, and almost misses being in the shot. It's comical to think that for the camera on the front cover (ironically, an older camera being used for an album called This Years Model), even this year's model still acts quirky. This joke is missed on the UK version of the cover.

Finally, Columbia Records did something truly cool for the label on the first pressing of the album. I can best explain it with photos. The label pictured for My Aim Is True is the standard Columbia Records label which had been in use since the late '60s/early '70s. Take a look at the yellow perimeter print on the label for This Years Model. Too cool.

And one last thing; if you haven't heard this album yet, listen to it. It's a masterpiece.


Blogger Kentonist said...

And that album is one of primary reasons I ended up making THIS album... on which we'd love your opinion, being clearly of impeccable taste. (Last FM - Full Album)


November 03, 2009 2:03 AM  

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