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Uber Rock: Gaz Tidey: 26th October 2015

There’s never really been a bad time to be an Elvis Costello fan, has there? One of the most consistent artists in music history sleeps for eleven minutes a night – or so it seems – the rest of his time spent writing and recording and touring and generally warranting that legendary status.

The tail end of 2015 is proving to be a really good time to be a Costello fan as it happens: a dozen classic albums are about to be reissued on 180g vinyl as part of Universal’s Back to Black series; his new memoir, ‘Unfaithful Music & Disappearing Ink’, looks like being the must-read music book of the year; the tome getting its own official soundtrack, ‘Unfaithful Music & Soundtrack Album’, compiled and sequenced by Costello himself for maximum emotional connection.

Another ‘Best Of’, you say? Well, not quite. ‘Unfaithful Music & Soundtrack Album’ is a compilation like few others, with more swaz than your average ‘Best Of’ and, at thirty-eight tracks in length, a true event of a listening experience.

Each of the release’s two discs opens with something a little different from your generic compilation – Disc One with a gripping live take of ‘Accidents Will Happen’, Disc Two with a demo version of ‘Veronica’. For every ‘Watching The Detectives’, ‘Alison’ and ‘Oliver’s Army’ there’s a ‘Ghost Train’, ‘Home Truth’ or ‘I Want To Vanish’, collaborations with Allen Toussaint, Brian Eno, Burt Bacharach, George Jones, and more than able backing from not only the Attractions, but also the Roots, the Imposters, the Brodsky Quartet and the Sugarcanes.

That’s all well and good, isn’t it, music lovers, but, even after being walked through the new memoir by the man himself to a soundtrack of thirty-six songs little short of stunning, you want something rare, something to tempt you into a double-dip, right?

Well, you get two previously-unreleased tracks: ‘April 5th’ finds Costello alongside Rosanne Cash and Kris Kristofferson and sounds like something that would have had my mother crying over the radio in the Seventies – does that make me old, or just welcoming of the wondrous circular effect of life? Either way, it’s another gorgeous tune from an almost untouchable body of work. What could top that for curiosity value? Only one of Costello’s earliest solo recordings, ‘I Can’t Turn It Off’, credited to D.P. Costello and featuring the (then)soon-to-be-great man with just his acoustic guitar for company.

Has there been, or will there be, a classier, more thought-provoking compilation release this year? Nope.

Elvis has left the building? Elvis Costello will never leave my stereo.

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