- Full performer name: Elvis Costello & The Attractions.
- The 2001 edition of ALL THIS USELESS BEAUTY comes with a bonus disc of rare material including demos and alternative versions of songs. Many of the tracks on the original release were written by Elvis Costello for other artists to record.
- Elvis Costello & The Attractions: Elvis Costello (vocals, acoustic, electric & guitars, celesta, keyboards, bass); Pete Thomas (acoustic guitar, drums, percussion); Steve Nieve (piano, keyboards, programming, sequencing); Bruce Thomas (bass).
- Additional personnel includes: Brian Eno, The Fairfield Four, The Brodsky Quartet.
- Producers include: Elvis Costello, Geoff Emerick, Brian Eno, The Attractions,
- Lee Olsen.
- Reissue producers: Gary Stewart, Val Jennings.
- Engineers include: Geoff Emerick, Jon Jacobs, Sam Gibson.
- Principally recorded at Windmill Lane Studios, Dublin, Ireland and Westside Studios, London, England. Includes liner notes by Elvis Costello.
- All tracks have been digitally remastered.
- Personnel: Elvis Costello (vocals, acoustic guitar, electric guitar, slide guitar, piano, celesta, keyboards); The Fairfield Four (vocals, background vocals); Pete Thomas (acoustic guitar, bass clarinet, drums, percussion); Michael Thomas , Ian Belton (violin); Paul Cassidy (viola); Jacqueline Thomas (cello); Ruth Causey (clarinet); Pete Whyman (bass clarinet); Steve Nieve (piano, keyboards, drum programming); Larry Knechtel (piano); Roy Babbington (double bass); Matt MacManus (electric bass); Danny Goffey (drums); Brian Eno (electronics); Ned Douglas (sampler).
- Audio Mixers: Geoff Emerick; Jon Jacobs; John Hudson; Paul Motian.
- Audio Remasterer: Daniel Hersch.
- Audio Remixer: Tricky .
- Liner Note Authors: Elvis Costello; Shawn Amos.
- Recording information: Elvis' House; Westside Studios, London, England; Windmill Lane Recording, Dublin, Ireland.
- Ensemble: The Brodsky Quartet.
- Photographers: Tim Kent; Amelia Stein.
- Unknown Contributor Role: The Brodsky Quartet.
- Arranger: Sleeper.
- After years of radical stylistic detours, Costello reunited with the Attractions for BRUTAL YOUTH, seeming to prove that Tom Wolfe was right about not being able to go home again. That album's followup, ALL THIS USELESS BEAUTY, is a logic-defying marvel, finding Costello and the Attractions at the peak of their powers. Though some of the arrangements hark back to THIS YEAR'S MODEL, EC and the boys don't really try to revisit the past. Rather, they apply the musical lessons they've learned over the years to create a new, more mature sound that still bears their unique sonic trademark.
- The song selection here is a bit of a grab bag, as many of these tunes were written by Costello for other artists, but there's such a consistency and vitality to the material that it all seems to be of a piece. "Why Can't a Man Stand Alone" is an emotive soul ballad that shows Costello's '60s R&B roots. "Complicated Shadows" has a whisper-to-a-scream arrangement that shows off the band's dynamic facility. The harmonically sophisticated ballad "I Want to Vanish" is proof positive that Costello really is the Gershwin of the post-punk generation.
Rolling Stone (5/30/96, p.49) - 3 Stars - Good - "...the most likable and organic Costello album in years....these tracks arise as modern standards--the '90s answer to the brilliance of the old Brill Building catalog."
Entertainment Weekly (5/17/96, p.61) - "...possibly the mildest-tempered album he's ever made....Loyalists, however, can rest easy knowing the record's relative quietude camouflages plenty of unladylike phlegm and bile..." - Rating: A-
Q (10/01, p.141) - 4 stars out of 5 - "...An uncommonly confessional set by Costello's standards - direct, affecting, and largely overlooked in its day."
Uncut (11/01, p.110) - 4 stars out of 5 - "...Costello unveiled the best singing of his career here, purring and insinuating..."
Melody Maker (5/18/96, p.49) - Recommended - "...It's not useless, just awkward--awkward with the dignity of the auteur....this album draws you into its sullenness, its subtle shades of colour that surround and encompass....when it is simple and graceful--namely in the big ballads--you are lost in a beauty that could crack glass..."
Musician (7/96, pp.86-87) - "...sounds surprisingly good....Steve Nieve's piano has as much reverbed twinkle as it did 15 years ago, and it's a very welcome sound....the sort of great pop music Elvis Costello was supposed to be making, if...he'd only been paying attention or something..."
Mojo (Publisher) (6/96, p.114) - "...a vocal 'tour de force': he has never sounded so intimate, so confiding....[the album] does boast a growing vocal mastery, a newfound sense that Elvis's phrasing is now the equal of his lyrical genius."
NME (Magazine) (5/11/96, p.44) - 7 (out of 10) - "...A strange, slightly confusing, but mostly gripping channel-hopping session through the accumulated tricks of a show-off songcraftsman..."