Singles, Vol. 1Singles, Vol. 2Singles, Vol. 3
Singles, Volume 1 - Singles, Volume 2 - Singles, Volume 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 original context.

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.

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