Don't Ask Me To Apologize [BATZ 2CD]
CD1 1977: Capital Radio session, John Peel sessions, Granada TV, Live At Eric's, Live At 4 Acres Club and Live at Hollywood High - 20 tracks. CD2 1978: Live at Warner Theatre, Washington DC, Feb 28 - 17 tracks. Ex- to Ex studio and live soundboard stereo.

An excellent snapshot of Costello’s Year Zero, Don’t Ask Me To Apologize is divided between an entertaining (and halfway essential) rendering of the band’s February 1978 DC show, first released on the Elvis Goes To Washington boot, and the same clutch of live and broadcast odds that highlighted the first two sides of 50 Million Elvis Fans Can’t Be Wrong, the semi-seminal vinyl boot that kickstarted the Costello underground industry in the first place.

Three songs from Capital Radio, four more from the John Peel Show, a smart TV take on "Alison" and a bunch of live cuts and b-sides were selected as much for their quality as their rarity - the unforgettable "Watching The Detectives" that introduced the Attractions to the captive crowds of Top Of The Pops remains a heartstoppingly brilliant performance, all the more so since (unlike "Alison"), the video footage wasn’t included on the official Right Spectacle DVD collection. Shame about the abrupt ending, though.

The quality isn’t great, largely because both CDs were mastered straight off some rather crackly vinyl. Still, it’s a fascinating document, and a brittle reminder of just what unfeasibly powerful performers Costello and his Attractions once were. - Dave Thompson

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September 29, 2006