Put Your Big Toe In The Milk Of Human Kindness (demo)
Last Boat Leaving (demo)
The Ugly Things
You're No Good
Point Of No Return
The Room Nobody Lives In
Stalin Malone (vocal version)
Even with records as diverse as Get Happy!!, Almost Blue, and Imperial Bedroom preceding it, you could call Spike the beginn ing of Elvis Costello's super-eclectic period. The 1989 disc, here augmented wit h an hour's wort... more »h of inspired demos and B-sides, offered everything from the bed rock New Orleans sounds of Al len Toussaint and the Dir ty Dozen Brass Band to clanging rockabilly, Paul McCartney collaborations (including the sparkling po p hit "Veronica"), and a jazz-ballad standard in the making ("Baby Plays Around" ). And that's only the half of it. As Costello relates in new liner notes, he ha d ideas for several records: "I seem to have elected to make all five albums at once." Such a thing could've gone precious way fast, but nerve, imagination, tun es, and a double dose of anger assured that it didn't. A broadside or three on t he state of England and the world also made Spike hardly less bilious tha n This Year's Model. (Try the coldly mournful "Tramp the Dirt Down" or th e skronking, Marc Ribot-a ssisted "Let Him Dangle.") Heard seemingly everywhere in its day, it deserves the fresh listens this reissue will occasion. --Rickey Wright« less
Even with records as diverse as Get Happy!!, Almost Blue, and Imperial Bedroom preceding it, you could call Spike the beginn ing of Elvis Costello's super-eclectic period. The 1989 disc, here augmented wit h an hour's worth of inspired demos and B-sides, offered everything from the bed rock New Orleans sounds of Al len Toussaint and the Dir ty Dozen Brass Band to clanging rockabilly, Paul McCartney collaborations (including the sparkling po p hit "Veronica"), and a jazz-ballad standard in the making ("Baby Plays Around" ). And that's only the half of it. As Costello relates in new liner notes, he ha d ideas for several records: "I seem to have elected to make all five albums at once." Such a thing could've gone precious way fast, but nerve, imagination, tun es, and a double dose of anger assured that it didn't. A broadside or three on t he state of England and the world also made Spike hardly less bilious tha n This Year's Model. (Try the coldly mournful "Tramp the Dirt Down" or th e skronking, Marc Ribot-a ssisted "Let Him Dangle.") Heard seemingly everywhere in its day, it deserves the fresh listens this reissue will occasion. --Rickey Wright
"First, some context: Although I was familiar with a few (but not many) of Elvis's previous singles, "Spike" is the first of his records that I bought, and has consequently become my comparison benchmark for the rest of his catalog. Prior to this record, I had a vague assumption that I didn't care for Elvis Costello, so winning me over was job one. But after hearing "Veronica" on the radio, seeing a televised acoustic performance of "Let Him Dangle" and going to a play that employed "God's Comic" as an opening mood-setter, I took the chance. And what a payoff!It has always mystified me that the same sonic disparity that critics had decided marked "Imperial Bedroom" as a great record was largely considered a liability on this record. The arrangements here always seem to support the songs well; giving an understated, folk-protest feel to the acerbic anti-Thatcher diatribe "Tramp The Dirt Down"; bluesy piano for the superb "Deep Dark Truthful Mirror"; spare, nervous bursts of noise on "Pads, Paws & Claws" (one of two songs co-written with Paul McCartney on the record); or the all-out studio gloss of "Satellite" and the aforementioned "Veronica." It never feels as if a horn section was added superfluously, or an orchestra was thrown in simply because he had the budget for it. The songwriting is top-notch, and the arrangements are judiciously eclectic.My only real criticism of the proper album is rather nit-picky: it's so long that the last three songs have always felt like some sort of extended post-script. The songs are fine when I listen to them, but they've never sunk into my subconscious the way the rest of the album has.As for this bonus disc with this new Rhino reissue, it gives an interesting insight into the album that could've been. Only five of the seventeen songs on the disc are not represented on the first disc. Consisting almost entirely of guitar-and-voice demos, these tracks highlight how strong the songs are, and that Elvis did not have to resort to studio indulgences to prop up weak material. In fact, if you were one of those who thought of "Spike" as too scattered, you may prefer these stripped versions to some of the final takes. Elvis's liner notes in the expanded booklet make for interesting reading, too. Rhino once again earns my vote as the vanguard label for high-quality reissues.In short, "Spike" is an excellent album that, in my opinion, stands toe-to-toe with his most critically acclaimed work."
One of the best records to ever feature a Sousaphone!
Tim Brough | Springfield, PA United States | 11/21/2003
(5 out of 5 stars)
"I remember being completely bowled over when this album came out, to the point that I wedged "Veronica" onto the radio station playlist I worked for at the time and giving copies of the CD to a whole mess of people on my Holiday Gift list that year. In the dozen years since its original release, my appreciation of "Spike" has not diminished in the least.
Stylistically (and from the liner notes, geographically) all over the map, it holds together almost on the sheer force of the songwriting. Freed from Sony/CBS, he embarked on a record that was easily as ambitious as "Imperial Bedroom," but this time with a greater cast of players. "This Town," the disc's opener, featured Paul McCartney playing a trademark propulsive bass line and Roger McGuinn on his 12 String Rickenbacker. It kicks the album off with a bitter rant worthy of the trinity of Elvis' first three albums and a classic put down line "You're nobody till everybody in this town thinks you're a ba...rd."
But that kind of bitterness is nothing compared to "Tramp The Dirt Down," quite simply the angriest, harshest anti-Thatcher rant ever laid to tape. It is also, oddly enough, set to a gorgeous arrangement that includes Irish fiddles, pipes and a bouzouki. It may also be the saddest song EC has ever recorded. "God's Comic," in comparison, is almost cinematic in its scope and nearly as marvelously arranged. "God's Comic" is as wickedly sly in its humor as "Tramp The Dirt Down" is critically indicting.
Oh yes, and The Dirty Dozen Brass Band made "Spike" field such marvelous curves in "Deep Dark Truthful Mirror," "Stalin Malone," and the aforementioned referenced Sousaphone on "Chewing Gum." New Orleans piano legend Allen Toussaint's playing on "Mirror" is one of the many of "Spike's" instrumental highlights.
Of the six CD's Elvis recorded for the WB, "Spike" was the best. Rhino's addition of a cleaned up mix makes it indispensable. As for the bonus disc, it is basically a blueprint of the album, plus B-sides of singles, the most noteworthy of which was the well known "You're No Good." This belongs in your library."
Rhino re-releases a gem
B. Philbrick | Kingfield, Maine USA | 09/05/2001
(5 out of 5 stars)
"I am a huge EC fan and I own every album he has put out. This one has always been in the top five for me. Spike was an album I listened to not only for the great lyrics and music but it felt like I was getting an education as well. This album took experimental leaps and bounds that are still very fresh and daring today. "God's Comic", ".....This town...." and "Deep dark truthful mirror" are standouts among a truly great set. It was surprising to me that in the liner notes Elvis said that he thought the album might have been one of his most obscure if not for the "Veronica" single. I listen to this one so much more than a lot of his better known records it is impossible for me to not think of this as a classic. This also provided me with a blueprint to follow in finding other music. I "discovered" Marc Ribot, Mitchell Froom, and that whole entourage that made some great albums in the 1990's. The bonus disc contains some nice no-frills versions of the songs plus a donwright creepy version of "You're no good"."
Getting better with age
S. Finefrock | Raleigh, NC | 09/06/2002
(4 out of 5 stars)
"I enjoyed Spike when it first came out in the late eighties, but then lost interest in it. It shuffled to the backwaters of my collection and was on deck a couple of times for re-sale. I'm glad it never made it to the used CD shop. I've recently given this a couple spins and have rediscovered a fine album. Spike features some of Elvis' best arrangements and most pungent lyrics (no small feat). Stylistically all over the map, this is not an easy disk to digest, but several tracks such as Let Him Dangle, Tramp Down the Earth and God's Comic are true classics of Costellian proportions. The Dirty Dozen Brass Band adds spice to the affair, while Marc Ribot(guitar) and Micheal Blair(percussion) add a Tom Waits-like flavor. While I do not have the version with the bonus disk, I'm sure that it contains some items of mild interest. Get it."
Costello At His Creative Best
Kurt Harding | Boerne TX | 02/22/2007
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Though I've been an Elvis Costello fan almost since the beginning, some of his albums have been a little harder to get into than others. However, I liked Spike from the start and had it on CD already but decided to get the Rhino reissue when I saw how much the listener gets for just a little money. Well, not only do you get better sound quality than previously, you get a load of mostly very worthwhile demos and outtakes as your bonus. My favorites on Disc 1 are: the sneering This Town; the anti-gallows anthem Let Him Dangle; the call to introspection of Deep Dark Truthful Mirror; the playful Veronica; the melancholy God's Comic, the horn-driven Chewing Gum; the clever, hate-filled anti-Thatcher screed Tramp The Dirt Down; the horn-based instrumental Stalin Malone; the dreamy Satellite; Miss MacBeth; Coal Train Robberies; and the plaintive Last Boat Leaving. That's almost the whole disc, you say. Well, that's how good it is! The bonus disc offers even more songs. Many of them are acoustic, demo versions of the fully fleshed-out songs on Spike. My favorites here mirror those on disc one, but I think the addition of the vocal version of Stalin Malone and the jaunty Point Of No Return do much to make the Rhino set a must-have. About the only one that sounds out of place is You're No Good. I had enough of that when Linda Ronstadt's rendition was played on the radio ad nauseum. Spike finds Elvis Costello at his creative best. Though I disagree philosophically with him on many points, I respect the way he approaches issues he cares about because he seems to have real viewpoints based on rational thought rather than just parroting someone else's nonsense about whatever is the cause du jour like some musicians I can think of. The quality of his songwriting keeps me coming back again and again. If you have not already done so, you should add this edition of Spike to your CD collection. Its one that will never gather dust in mine!"