|All Artists: Elvis Costello|
Title: Live At The El Mocambo
Members Wishing: 3
Total Copies: 0
Number of Discs: 1
SwapaCD Credits: 1
Historic and Hysteric Live Attractions disc
Alan Hutchins | Denver, CO | 03/18/2008
(4 out of 5 stars)
"Elvis Costello and "Proper Live Album" were two terms that could not be used smoothly in the same sentence for over a quarter of a century from the beginning of Elvis's recording career. Oh sure, you could find live songs on B-sides, live contributions to collections (such as "Live Stiffs" or "The Concerts for Kampuchea"), live songs on many of the Ryko or Rhino reissues, an import only short CD Deep Dead Blue, Live at Meltdown(a live collaboration during the Meltdown festival from 1995 with Bill Frissell), and even a limited edition collection of 5 CD singles documenting some stops on Elvis's duo tour with Steve Nieve in 1996 called Costello & Nieve (Ltd. Ed. Live 1996 5-disc box set - LA/San Francisco/Chicago/Boston/New York). Still, the first domestic stand-alone "retail available", full length Live CD in Elvis's storied career was a collaboration with the Metropole Orchestra called My Flame Burns Blue released in 2006, which was nearly 30 years after the release of his debut album. Prior to that time, you had to do some digging (or spending) to find "Live at the El Mocombo", the only prior non-bootleg, full length live CD somewhat available domestically, and the only one until the late 2000's to feature the original Attractions lineup.
This disc was the first CD issue (and the only one to date) of a Canadian promo LP on Columbia records from later in 1978 that was not officially commercially available--it was a "radio station only" release. Even when Ryko issued it on CD in 1993, you couldn't just go down to the neighborhood cool record store and buy it alone. It only came as a bonus in the "2 1/2 years" box set that Ryko issued that year (along with the first of what was to become a series of reissues of the first three discs, My Aim Is True, This Year's Model, and Armed Forces.)
First, a list of the songs, since these are not listed elsewhere:
1. Mystery Dance - 2:19
2. Waiting for the End of the World - 3:52
3. Welcome to the Working Week - 1:19
4. Less Than Zero - 4:08
5. The Beat - 3:33
6 Lip Service - 2:26
7. (I Don't Want to Go to) Chelsea - 3:56
8. Little Triggers - 2:47
9. Radio Radio - 2:33
10.Lipstick Vogue - 4:46
11.Watching the Detectives - 5:48
12.Miracle Man/Band Introduction - 4:07
13.You Belong to Me - 2:32
14.Pump It Up - 4:42
It's important to note that My Aim Is True (With Bonus Disc)had just been released in North America; yet this March 6, 1978 show demonstrates that Elvis is already chomping at the bit to move on to album number 2, This Year's Model(which had already been recorded and was released in March in the UK: it would come out in May in the US). 7 of the 11 songs on the initial US vinyl release of This Years Model are played at this show; another one, (I Don't Want To Go To )Chelsea, is on the UK version(and all subsequent reissues)of This Year's Model. That leaves 6 My Aim Is True songs to round out the set list. Note that Elvis starts with four of these and then finally comes back to the other two after a six song This Year's Model preview. He also closes with two of the more hard-rockin' This Year's Model songs.
El Mocombo is a storied yet small club in Toronto. It's the site of some Rolling Stones live recordings (On Love You Live)and a blistering Stevie Ray Vaughan video Stevie Ray Vaughan & Double Trouble - Live at the El Mocambo 1983), among other things. The cramped confines of this club lead to a problem with this particular recording; some loudmouthed, drunken idiot is sitting way too close to one of the stage mikes during this show, and his incessant high-pitched, cowpoke "Yee Haas" and various other "Yips" and "Woo Hoos" cause increasingly annoying distractions during the first 2/3rds of this disc. Mercifully, he passes out or is otherwise subdued enough to shut his yap for the final few songs. His self-imposed need to yell out, really loudly, every half minute or so for a good half hour makes this hard to listen to at times, though. Couldn't they have found a way to mix his caterwauling out of this? I hope the "30 years later" version of that guy, if he's still alive, is properly chagrined and embarrassed at his excessive outcries as he hears this.
Other than this, the Attractions and Elvis are in "set to stun" mode, rocketing through the set and laying waste to the Canadian audience. This is a powerful, driving set of state-of-the-art songcraft churned out by a seemingly humorless, defiant 23 year old Elvis and his high octane cohorts. Elvis's stage persona would lighten up a bit a few years after this, but at this point in his "angry young man" phase, his exhortations to the audience to get up and dance sound a lot less like requests than commands.
The live versions are usually faster but similar to the studio counterparts with a notable exception: "Less Than Zero" features the alternate set of lyrics known as the "Dallas version" that Elvis came up with when he learned that Americans thought the "Oswald" in the song referred to President Kennedy's assasin (rather than the British Fascist/Nazi sympathizer Oswald Mosely, whom he had referred to originally). The material that surfaced on This Year's Model is crisply done and lets the crowd know that they will need to stay tuned to this band. The whole thing sounds like a vindication to some of the excessive hype Elvis had been getting courtesy of some overzealous Columbia records promotion---this show says to the sceptical, "hey, they are as good as promised, maybe even better." It would have been hard to find a tighter, more driving four-piece band on any given March night in 1978 than this one.
So far this decade, we have finally gotten some other opportunities to own some full or nearly-full-length live recordings from the '77/'78 Attractions, such as the nine songs from Hollywood High on the Rhino Armed Forces reissue (recorded June 4, 1978),the My Aim Is True Universal "Deluxe Edition" featuring a great early Attractions set from the Nashville Rooms in August of 1977(a mere month or so after the auditions that finalized the band line-up), or the This Years Model Universal "Deluxe Edition" with a whole show from Washington, D.C. taped on February 28, 1978, just six days before this El Mocombo show. That particular show may be a bit less manic than this one, but there is no yelling hosehead evident marring the procedings, plus you get a few more songs, such as "(The Angels Want To Wear My) Red Shoes", "Blame It On Cain", as well as a closing solo "Chemistry Class" (this particular song was also on the Rhino "Armed Forces" reissue to close out the bonus disc). Otherwise, the Washington D.C. 2/28/78 show contains the same 14 songs, in a different order for the most part, as those featured on "El Mocombo".
Given the expense of this disc in the aftermarket, I would recommend you go with the This Year's Model Deluxe Edition if you want to satisfy your urge for a whole live Attractions show from 1978. If, however, you are a completist and money is no real obstacle,then track this one down for its manic and noisy punch."