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  Listen Up! 9/17/03 Listen Up!

Wednesday, Sept. 17

Elvis Costello, “Get Happy!!,” Rhino Records. When the original LP was released back in 1980, we all marveled at the fact Costello had managed to squeeze 20 songs on the record, and that it lasted something like 45 minutes. Now, for the third reissue on CD, the original album sits comfortably on one average length disc, and there’s a second disc featuring 30 bonus cuts, better than half of which I’ve never heard before. Alright, I’ve heard the songs, since almost everything that’s on the original album is included here in either alternate versions, live versions, or demo versions. And, to boot, there are some alternate versions of songs that would turn up on “Trust,” also reissued last week with another bonus disc (which I haven’t heard yet, but I’m gonna soon). There are the traditional b-sides associated with “Get Happy” – “Girls Talk, “So Young,” “Dr. Luther’s Assistant,” “Hoover Factory,” “Just a Memory,” all once collected on “Taking Liberties,” for those of you who bought the LPs on Columbia back in the day – and there’s even an alternate of one of those, a blistering ska take on “Girls Talk.” To hear the different takes on the “Get Happy!!” material is to realize just how amazing Costello and the Attractions were, because, with very few exceptions, the alternates are not demonstrably inferior to the more familiar versions, just dramatically different. “Get Happy!!” was Costello’s nod to soul and ska, but some of the alternates are even more directly pointing in those directions. The bottom line is, no Costello fan should be without this (or really, any of the Rhino reissues). The sound is impeccable, the bonus disc revealing, and the liner notes by Costello himself informative and hilarious.

Mofro, “Blackwater,” Swampland Records. On the one hand, I think it’s good that young musicians are discovering the blues and r’n’b. On the other hand, I wish they sounded less like Beck and more like, I don’t know, Tony Joe White. I mean, this isn’t so terrible an experience, but I’m not feeling the funk in the way they mean for me to feel it. It’s like they’ve appropriated the sounds without the motivation, which would be fine, I guess, if they substituted some other purpose of their own.

--Steve Pick


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