Elvis Costello

The Other Elvis

ElvisThe next batch of expanded Elvis Costello reissues arrives this week via Rhino in the form of 1981's "Almost Blue," 1984's "Goodbye Cruel World" and 1995's "Kojak Variety."

"Almost Blue” is widely regarded as Costello's "country album." Although somewhat maligned at the time of its original release, Costello's treatment of such songs as Merle Haggard's "Tonight the Bottle Let Me Down" and the Jerry Chesnut-written/George Jones-popularized "Good Year for the Roses" has proven to be effective and enduring.

The second disc boasts more than 15 tracks not included on Ryko's 1994 version of the album. Among the newly appended cuts is a version of "Stranger in the House" with Jones and "We Oughta Be Ashamed" with Johnny Cash. Also new are live versions of "Girls Talk," "Motel Matches" and one-time B-side "Radio Sweetheart."

"Kojak Variety" found Costello crooning such numbers as Screamin' Jay Hawkins' "Strange," Little Richard's "Bama Lama Bama," Bob Dylan's "I Threw It All Away" and the Kinks' "Days." The bonus disc comprises 20 tracks, including a version of the Beatles' "You've Got To Hide Your Love Away" and an alternate take of the album's Drew Baker/Danny McCormick blues classic "Pouring Water on a Drowning Man."

Bridging the sets is "Goodbye Cruel World," an album of originals that is often reviled among the Costello faithful. Nonetheless, it reached No. 35 on The Billboard 200 and produced a hit single in "The Only Flame in Town," which features Darryl Hall. An alternate version and a live take of the song appear on the bonus disc.