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Aural Pleasure Review

Elvis Costello & The Imposters: 'The Return of the Spectacular Spinning Songbook'

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Since pigeon-walking his way onto the 1977 charts, Elvis Costello has amassed a huge catalog of classic pop songs and genre experiments. Instead of trying to whittle his expansive career down to obvious tracks on last year's Revolver tour, Costello turned to the Spectacular Spinning Songbook, a massive 150-song wheel that spontaneously chose his set list on the spot. At just 16 hit-and-miss tracks, the album doesn't totally replicate the wacky anything-can-happen vibe of the tour but proves that Costello can still plug in his Jazzmaster and rock out despite recent detours into bluegrass. His band the Imposters is also in top form, particularly original Attractions members Steve Nieve (keys) and Pete Thomas (drums). In the early days, the Attractions thrillingly cranked up tempos until songs felt like they could careen off the track at any moment. Today, Costello still drives fast but never out of control. Rave-ups like "Radio Radio," "Lipstick Vogue," and "(What's So Funny 'Bout) Peace, Love and Understanding" hit just as hard now as they did 30-plus years ago, but Costello's older, richer voice gives grandeur and gravitas to the slow-burners as well. Songbook may not be ideal for newcomers, but Costello super-fans should definitely give this a spin.

★★★ ½ (out of 5 stars)

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