Stiffs Live: Various Artists

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ImageStiff Records has launched as many punk rockers in Britain as Sire has in America, and you’ll find several of the best of them on this anthology. Recorded during an October 1977 concert tour of the UK, the set features two songs each by Nick Lowe, Ian Dury and Elvis Costello, plus performances by the lesser-known Wreckless Eric and Larry Wallis. In addition, all of the aforementioned acts join forces for an album-closing rendition of Dury’s “Sex & Drugs & Rock & Roll.”

Potential buyers should be advised that punk music, which sounds primitive and rough-edged under any conditions, seems particularly so in a live context. Moreover, several of the performances here offer little but histrionics; and Wreckless Eric is simply horrible.

Those points notwithstanding, punk aficionados should find much to like on the LP. Dury is at his idiosyncratic best with “Billericay Dickie” and “Wake Up & Make Love with Me,” while Nick Lowe contributes a fiery “I Knew the Bride.” Even more satisfying are the tracks by Elvis Costello, who precedes his own “Miracle Man” with an unlikely and surprisingly sensitive cover of Bachrach and David’s “I Just Don’t Know What to Do with Myself.”

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