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Elvis Costello - Armed Forces Click here to see this CD at!

By Bill Holdship

Armed Forces was the last title in a trilogy of albums that rank with the greatest three-LP series in pop-rock history. In retrospect, it also now appears to be the one on which the young Costello's pop tendencies peaked, right before they began to "mature" and grow less accessible. "Accidents Will Happen" features a melody line as beautiful as any ever written; "Oliver's Army" easily competes with the best of Abba and Brian Wilson among pop masterpieces. This is also where Costello's early themes--most notably romantic rejection equated with the horrors of neo-Nazism and modern politics--came together most precisely (the album's working title was "Emotional Fascism"). Rhino does its usual superb job, with wonderful remastering, in-depth liner notes by Costello himself (including a catty paragraph about famous groupie-author Bebe Buell, who often claims this album is about her), and a second disc of concurrent singles and alternate versions. Best of all are nine live tracks from the legendary June 4, 1978, Hollywood High School show, fully documenting that Costello & the Attractions were once among the all-time dynamic live rock acts.

By Barney Hoskyn

Less hot under the collar than This Year's Model, Armed Forces was partly inspired by Elvis Costello and the Attractions' 1978 American tour. The songs are set to deceptively poppy arrangements that use plinky ABBA keyboards ("Oliver's Army," a hit single about mercenaries), Beatles-ish devices (the fade on "Party Girl"), and whimsical waltz-time signatures ("Sunday's Best") to mask their core cynicism. "Goon Squad," "Busy Bodies," and "Accidents Will Happen" are among Costello's most melodically powerful songs to this point, leading the way to the masterful Get Happy!!.

1. Accidents Will Happen16. Talking In The Dark
2. Senior Service17. Big Boys (Alternate version)
3. Oliver's Army18. Clean Money
4. Big Boys19. Wednesday Week
5. Green Shirt20. My Funny Valentine
6. Party Girl21. Accidents Will Happen (Live)
7. Goon Squad22. Mystery Dance (Live)
8. Busy Bodies23. Good Squad (Live)
9. Sunday's Best24. Party Girl (Live)
10. Moods For Moderns25. Stranger In The House (Live)
11. Chemistry Class26. Alison (Live)
12. Two Little Hitlers27. Lipstick Vogue (Live)
13. (What's So Funny 'Bout) Peace, Love And Understanding?28. Watching The Detectives (Live)
14. Tiny Steps29. You Belong To Me (Live)
15. Busy Bodies (Alternate version)30. Chemistry Class (Live Solo)


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Artist: Elvis Costello

Released: January 3, 1979

Availability: CD, Vinyl


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