Elvis Costello – Kojak Variety (1995)

FrontCover1Declan Patrick MacManus, OBE (born 25 August 1954), known professionally as Elvis Costello, is an English singer-songwriter.

He has won multiple awards in his career, including Grammy Awards in 1999 and 2020, and has twice been nominated for the Brit Award for Best British Male Artist.

In 2003, he was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. In 2004, Rolling Stone ranked Costello number 80 on its list of the 100 Greatest Artists of All Time.

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Kojak Variety is a 1995 album by Elvis Costello, composed of cover songs written by others. Rhino Records reissued an expanded, double-CD in 2004 containing a bonus disc.

Costello said in the liner notes this was a “record of some of my favourite songs performed with some of my favourite musicians.”[13] but that he didn’t want to record songs that were too familiar. Costello had searched independent record shops: Potter’s Music in Richmond, Probe in Liverpool, Rock On in Camden Town, and many American thrift stores and pawn shops to discover albums that he previously had only known from singles or compilations. Costello said he made his best discoveries in what he called “the greatest record collecting store in the world”, Village Music in Mill Valley, California.

The first song recorded for the album was “Running Out of Fools”, while the last was a new rendering of “Days” by The Kinks, which he had previously recorded for the album soundtrack album Until the End of the World, for the Wim Wenders’ film of the same name. The title Kojak Variety refers to the name of a variety store in Barbados near where the album was recorded; Costello was amused by the seemingly random name of the enterprise, and in a similar spirit, decided to apply the name to his album.[14]

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With Almost Blue, Elvis Costello wanted to be a honky tonker. With Kojak Variety, he’s a crooner, picking forgotten tunes by both minor and major artists (anyone from Screamin’ Jay Hawkins to Bob Dylan). From his song selections to the pseudo-avant-rock/R&B band, Costello doesn’t make any obvious moves. Yet that doesn’t mean that the record is difficult — it just shows the depths of Costello’s affection for music and record collecting (which is also clear from his loving, detailed liner notes). Costello and his band (featuring guitarists James Burton and Marc Ribot, drummer Jim Keltner and Attraction Pete Thomas) play with gusto, tearing through the songs with the vigor of a bar band on a Friday night. Some of the rockers sound slightly forced, although there’s no denying the power of Costello’s passionate vocals, even if he stretches his range a little too much (Little Richard’s “Bama Lama Bama Loo”). What matters here are the performances, and the majority of Kojak Variety is filled with fine interpretations. Kojak Variety does what any good covers album should do — it makes you want to seek out the originals. (by Stephen Thomas Erlewine)

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This album is as good as any of Costello’s best. Sure, it’s a cover album. But, it doesn’t cover any songs you’re likely to have ever heard before. And that’s what elevates it from you run of the mill, dialed in cover collection. Costello has a passion for these tunes. He had been touring with this band and this album was their last opportunity to play together. You can tell that they’re truly enjoying the collaboration—there’s an energy and enthusiasm here. This is a hard driving, nostalgic rock & roll/R&B album featuring musicians who are at the top of their game. It’s a joy to listen to, and over the years, I’ve found myself returning to it again and again. The All Music two star rating doesn’t give this set the attention it deserves. (Jeremy Feldman)

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Personnel:
James Burton (guitar)
Elvis Costello (vocals, harmonica)
Jim Keltner (drums)
Larry Knechtel (keyboards)
Marc Ribot (banjo, guitar, horn)
Jerry Scheff (bass)
Pete Thomas (drums)

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Tracklist:
01. Strange (Hawkins) 2.42
02. Hidden Charms (Dixon) 3.33
03. Remove This Doubt (B.Holland/Dozier/E.Holland, Jr.) 3.54
04. I Threw It All Away (Dylan) 3.26
05. Leave My Kitten Alone (John/Turner) 3.13
06. Everybody’s Crying Mercy (Allison) 4.08
07. I’ve Been Wrong Before (Newman) 3.03
08. Bama Lama Bama Loo (Penniman) 2.47
09. Must You Throw Dirt In My Face? (Anderson) Louvin Brothers 3.51
10. Pouring Water On A Drowning Man (Baker/McCormick) James Carr 3.40
11. The Very Thought Of You (Noble) Nat King Cole 3.43
12. Payday (Winchester) Jesse Winchester 3.00
13. Please Stay (Bacharach/Hilliard) 4.50
14. Running Out Of Fools (Ahlert/Rogers) 3.04
15. Days (Davies) The Kinks 4.56

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More from Elvis Costello:
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The official website:
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