Spike - Warner Brothers - 1989
This album, which is Costello's first for Warner Brothers, definitely belongs among his most ambitious and most versatile. Whether this is positive and if the project is successful, is very much a question of taste. At any rate we see here Costello work with many different genres and a great variety in instrumentation.
Moreover, the list of guest musicians is long and full of fascinating personalities, who in varying degrees have influenced the whole. I especially feel that vthe presence of Mitchel Froom, who is known as a producer for Suzanne Vega, shines through many places. Froom contributes to six tracks and on several of these can provide memories of Vega's excellent "99.9F" and "Nine Objects of Desire 'albums.
As mentioned, Costello spreads over many genres, and his use of "The Dirty Dozen Brass Band" is remarkable. Personally, I feel that is only really a success on the soul ballad "Deep Dark Mirror truthful" and on "Miss Macbeth". "Chewing Gum" and "Stalin Malone" do not really belong on a Costello album.
As often it is the ballads which come out the strongest, especially "God's Comic" (reminds me a lot about Queen's "All Dead)" Any King's Shilling ", with its medieval instrumentation and the waltzy" Satellite ". Naturally also the politically biting 'Tramp the Dirt Down "is one of the album's most memorable numbers.
In the lighter division, you'll notice the opening track "This Town" where Roger McGuinn contributes a little Byrds sound. Also, of course, the hit "Veronica" which Costello wrote with Paul McCartney. The second Costello / McCartney collaboration "Pads, Paws And Claws" is rather forgettable.
Conclusion: An album with many strong songs, but the overall impression is weakened somewhat by a handful of just half boring songs.