VOLUMES 1, 2 & 3
The three Singles box sets were
released in October 2003 in the UK on Edsel Records, the same label
responsible for the UK release of most of the "Rhino reissues."
Although the Singles sets were never actually issued by
Rhino, they are discussed on this website anyway because they include
several tracks which are otherwise unavailable on CD. (And besides, no
other website has examined these boxes in any detail!)
The single format has been a bit neglected by the music industry in
recent years, but during the period covered by these box sets, Elvis
Costello seemed to take it seriously. The pairings of songs were often
inspired and accompanied by equally imaginative artwork. Although most
of this material has been repackaged in a generally logical form on the
Rhino reissues, the Singles box
sets are notable for restoring each single to something close to its
The first two boxes contain 12 discs each, with the third box
containing 11. The CDs are intended to replicate the vast majority of
Costello's singles released in the UK between 1977 and 1987. Each disc
is housed in a cardboard sleeve based on the sleeve which came with the
original vinyl 7-inch single. Each box includes a booklet with new liner
notes by Alan Robinson.
In the case of singles which had different track listings in their
7-inch and 12-inch incarnations, the CDs generally incorporate all
relevant tracks. In a few cases, rare tracks which were released only on
US singles are included, although commonly available tracks from US
singles (such as "This Year's Girl," "Watch Your Step," and "Lovable")
are not represented.
A slightly peculiar omission is the 1985 UK single for "Green Shirt,"
which featured an exclusive remix in its 12-inch version.
Although there is much to like about the Singles boxes, their overall value is
undermined by dubious quality control which has certain songs presented
in incorrect forms which do not match their original single versions. In
the case of three tracks, these "wrong versions" are otherwise
unreleased and thus something of a blessing in disguise for Costello
completists. In other cases, however, the "wrong versions" are commonly
available, making the errors especially frustrating. Full details can be
found on the pages devoted to the individual boxes.