All This Useless Beauty [Expanded]

Editorial Reviews

Barnes & Noble - David Sprague
Elvis conceived this 1996 album as proof that -- to invert the sentiment expressed by Mick Jagger -- it's the song, not the singer that really matters. Virtually all of the songs on Useless Beauty were written for other performers, but Costello puts his own stamp on them here, from the chiming "You Bowed Down," recorded by Roger McGuinn, to "Punishing Kiss," initially used in Robert Altman's Short Cuts but retooled here for a jazz quartet. There's a whole lot of stretching going on, and virtually all of it works. The bonus disc appended to this 2001 reissue contains some surprising interpretations of songs that never made it to the album: In this parallel universe, ...
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08/21/2001 CD Original recording remastered, O Fair Case/Box has damage.

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Editorial Reviews

Barnes & Noble - David Sprague
Elvis conceived this 1996 album as proof that -- to invert the sentiment expressed by Mick Jagger -- it's the song, not the singer that really matters. Virtually all of the songs on Useless Beauty were written for other performers, but Costello puts his own stamp on them here, from the chiming "You Bowed Down," recorded by Roger McGuinn, to "Punishing Kiss," initially used in Robert Altman's Short Cuts but retooled here for a jazz quartet. There's a whole lot of stretching going on, and virtually all of it works. The bonus disc appended to this 2001 reissue contains some surprising interpretations of songs that never made it to the album: In this parallel universe, "That Day Is Done" is buoyed by vocals from gospel greats the Fairfield Four, while the eerie "My Dark Life" gains plenty of subtle atmospherics from the contributions of Brian Eno. Costello also offers some insight into his working process by tossing in a handful of four-track home demos, including the only extant recording of "Mistress and Maid," a tune he co-wrote with Paul McCartney. A must-have for any Costello fan to begin with, this version of All This Useless Beauty is exponentially greater than the original.
All Music Guide - Stephen Thomas Erlewine
Arriving at the end of his stint at Warner Bros., All This Useless Beauty is one of Elvis Costello's overlooked records, which is a shame since it's a fine album -- a clearing-house of old songs, tunes he co-wrote with other artists who recorded them initially, and songs he had written for other songs and brand new artists. It's a wild, diverse record that showcases not just his strengths as a songwriter, but the depth of his catalog -- particularly since he was tying up a lot of loose ends, working with new collaborators, and finishing off old songs, while putting an end to the Attractions. There were a lot of songs that didn't make it to the record for various reasons, most notably the B-side "Almost Ideal Eyes" and "My Dark Life," a superb collaboration with Brian Eno that later surfaced on an X-Files soundtrack. Then, when the album started failing on the charts, Costello dreamed up the idea of weekly singles with new B-sides, including covers of songs from the album by contemporary artists including Sleeper and Lush. Among these B-sides were a remix of "Distorted Angel" by Tricky and a lovely understated version of Sleeper's "What Do I Do Now." All of the previously mentioned songs are present on the endlessly fascinating bonus disc of Rhino's 2001 expanded reissue of All This Useless Beauty. Costello and compilers chose not to take the completist route and pile on all the B-sides from that month of singles, instead choosing to fill out the bulk of the disc with demos. Many of these are for songs on the album itself, but there are just as many for songs that aren't on the record. As Costello explains in his terrific notes, "If I had wanted to simply make this an album of songs written for other artists, I might have included a number of the titles that you may now find on the second CD." This means there are retooled demos of "The Comedians" and "The Only Flame in Town," which were intended for Roy Orbison who recorded the song and Aaron Neville who didn't, respectively. Then, there are two songs from the record that were sent to Sam Moore "Why Can't a Man Stand Alone?" and Johnny Cash "Complicated Shadows," given a very Tennessee Two reading by Costello here, plus "Hidden Shame," which Cash did record. The two major finds are Costello's demo of the McCartney/MacManus composition "Mistress and Maid" which McCartney did cut and "The World's Great Optimist," a song co-written with Aimee Mann that showed up in a reworked version as "The Fall of the World's Own Optimist" on her Bachelor No. 2. Finally, there's "The Bridge I Burned," a wonderful collage that initially appeared on the Warner Bros. overview Extreme Honey when it was released then, Costello intended to quote/sample Prince's "Pop Life" but was denied permission; once again, he was denied permission to use it for this reissue. That's quite a haul, but it's absolutely worth it, the most revelatory and fascinating bonus disc in the first wave of Costello reissues -- a work that whets the appetite for the reissues of the rest of the catalog.
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Product Details

  • Release Date: 8/21/2001
  • Label: Rhino
  • UPC: 081227428426
  • Catalog Number: 74284

Album Credits

Performance Credits
Elvis Costello & the Attractions Primary Artist, Track Performer
Elvis Costello Indexed Contributor, Acoustic Guitar, Bass, Piano, Celeste, Electric Guitar, Keyboards, Vocals, Performing Ensemble, Slide Guitar
The Fairfield Four Vocals, Background Vocals
The Attractions Track Performer
Steve Nieve Piano, Keyboards, Performing Ensemble
Sleeper Track Performer
Roy Babbington Double Bass
Ian Belton Violin
The Brodsky Quartet Ensemble
Paul Cassidy Viola
Brian Eno electronics
Larry Knechtel Piano
Bruce Thomas Bass
Jacqueline Thomas Cello
Pete Thomas Acoustic Guitar, Percussion, Bass Clarinet, Drums
Ruth Causey Clarinet
Ned Douglas Sampling
Matt MacManus Bass, Electric Bass, Drum Loop
Danny Goffey Drums
Michael Thomas Violin
Pete Whyman Bass Clarinet
Technical Credits
Elvis Costello Composer, Producer, Liner Notes, Orchestration
Steve Nieve Orchestration, drum programming
Sleeper Arranger, Producer
The Brodsky Quartet Contributor
Geoff Emerick Producer, Engineer
Brian Eno Producer
Ben Fenner Engineer
Dan Hersch Remastering
John Hudson Engineer
Bill Inglot Producer
Jon Jacobs Engineer
Bob Ludwig Mastering
Paul Motian Engineer
Lee Olsen Producer
Mark Prentice Producer
Andrew Sandoval Producer
Tricky Remixing
Steve Averill Sleeve Design
Wendy Sherman Art Direction
Patrick Swan Sleeve Design
Matt MacManus Producer
Shawn Amos Liner Notes
Val Jennings Reissue Producer
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