"In middle age, Elvis Costello has dropped off the charts, owing (I think) to the ironclad banality of contemporary radio; but far from dropping out of sight he has ascended to the professoriate of modern songwriting. He's an elder statesman now, someone who has never once stopped writing brilliant songs at any time in the last thirty years. _Girls! Girls! Girls!_, consisting as it does of songs recorded between 1976 and 1986, now represents a small chunk of his output (though most agree, and not without reason, that he was at his best during that period, when he played in front of the transcendent Attractions).So what is this curious _Girls! Girls! Girls!_ entity? As my fellow reviewers have noted, it's not a straight-up "best of"; it is rather a peculiar sort of collage. Elvis says the songs are bound together by the "obscure arithmetic of the title" but not all the songs are, in fact, about girls, girls, and girls. Late in the CD running order we wander into realms of acerbic political fantasy ("Pills and Soap," "Tokyo Storm Warning"). But most of our time is spent loitering on Elvis's two favourite avenues: meet you at the corner of Revenge and Guilt.I can't help feeling the songs are chosen to highlight the playing of Elvis's sidemen. One great thing about Elvis's liner notes is that they point you to bits of Attraction brilliance; then, if you're paying even slight attention, you find your own. "Check out Bruce Thomas's playing on the outro to 'Shabby Doll'," sez Elvis; you do, and your jaw drops; and you're attuned, for the remainder of the CD, to Bruce's fantastic playing. I figure there's a reason the "methiest" of Elvis's songs aren't on here. He was trying to present the Attractions at their very tightest, as on the galloping but not unbridled "Lipstick Vogue." There are also self-deprecating arguments for some overlooked songs from the Costello canon; I think we can hardly agree that "High Fidelity" is redeemed only by the "comical drunkenness" of the singer. Even Elvis probably doesn't think that.These are the Elvis Costello songs that would have been hits if the public had shared Elvis's own judgment, is how I'd explain it. He is on record as thinking that if record buyers and DJs had any sense, "Tokyo Storm Warning" would have been a hit--and "Every Day I Write the Book" wouldn't have been. As a songwriter's (and singer's) journey through his own work, this set is bloody overpowering. It is literally too good to listen to in one sitting. You'd be wrung out and other music would be ruined for you for a good two weeks. There are entire months when I listen to little else but _Girls! Girls! Girls!_. For God's sake, buy it. If you already own it, buy another."
Such a Deal!
John Stodder | livin' just enough | 02/15/2000
(5 out of 5 stars)
"If you are an Elvis Costello fan, and you haven't gone about replacing your LPs from his raging first decade yet, you might want to consider what is being offered here: 47 songs on two discs, for about 20 bucks when shipping is figured in. The songs are from 1976 to 1986. They cover the records from "My Aim is True" thru "Blood and Chocolate." Some of the albums are better represented than others, but the choices overall are sound, mixing obvious hits with high-quality obscurities, tuneful rockers with experimental tracks. It is generous and well-programmed, so you are not forced to listen to everything in chronological order. If you're one of those fans who essentially fell off the bandwagon after "Armed Forces" this is a good way to catch up with the best of what you missed; probably better than buying the full albums (although everyone should own "Get Happy!"). As most reviews indicate, the liner notes are amusing, if not terribly enlightening. The point is: Before buying this, you were probably missing a lot of Elvis's songs. Afterwards, you'll have them, so that when you're in one of those rare Elvis Costello moods, you're covered! For just 20 big ones!
UPDATE 6/8/06. Well, in the years since I wrote this review, the CD's price has gone up. Oh well. I still like it."
An amazing talent
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Elvis Costello's voice rarely has cut through the cacaphony of pop music during the last twenty years. When he does, it is briefly and a novelty such as singing "Radio Radio" on Saturday Night Live or poking up in the 80's with "Veronica". He is someone you have to go in search of and "Girls Girls Girls" is quite rewarding. Here are assembled two CD's of songs dealing strictly with ... Girls! I started listening to CD #1 and thought, "There's a good song..." And then ditto with song two... and three...suddenly I was up to over twenty songs in a row that were intriguing, well-crafted and all slightly different. It is at this point that you realize the sheer talent of Mr. Costello. How many people can fill up 72 minutes with (some) of their best music?? I am presently discovering CD#2. Anyone partial to Mr. Costello's unique songwriting style and voice would be satisfied with this CD set."
Amazing early work
Pieter | Johannesburg | 12/11/2003
(5 out of 5 stars)
"This grand collection of Elvis Costello's early work includes some real dynamite. Reportedly selected by the man himself, it includes most of his early gems drawn from albums like My Aim Is True, This Year's Model, Armed Forces, Trust, his country excursion Almost Blue, and others.There are plenty of classics like Watching The Detectives, Pump It Up, I Don't Want To Go To Chelsea, Accidents Will Happen, Black And White World and Green Shirt. Listening to this album, it is obvious that Armed Forces is my favorite Costello album for its wealth of catchy, melodic songs.On Disc Two my favorites include the tortured ballad Alison, the pop classic Tiny Steps, the lilting ballad Oliver's Army and other masterpieces like Sunday's Best, Less Than Zero and Shipbuilding. I would have preferred the song Good Year For The Roses instead of the title track from Almost Blue, but that is a minor gripe.There are at least two other Elvis Costello/Attractions compilations but Girls Girls Girls is my personal favorite by far, since I prefer his early period. It demonstrates just what a genius he is, a master of the intelligent lyric and the memorable tune. On these tracks he creates the perfect synthesis of clever pop, mature rock and memorable country."
One of the Best Costello Anthologies
Tim Brough | Springfield, PA United States | 12/11/2003
(5 out of 5 stars)
"These are the pearls of the Columbia era for Elvis, and it's a bargain. 47 songs on two discs and a collection of comments from the artist himself, this covers the albums from "My Aim Is True" to "Blood and Chocolate" with only a couple major omissions. (Where's "Radio Radio?") But they are more than made up for by Elvis' notes, which attempt to make a point of spotlighting particular moments and passages, as well as inspirations and mind-states. It may be getting a little harder to find, but it's worth it. Given the brevity the liner notes in the Rhino "Best Of" set from 2001, this set gets the edge."