Elvis Costello fans are generally divided over the quality of his 1983 album Punch the Clock, which he recorded with Clive Langier and Alan Winstanley, producers of many of Madness' greatest moments as well as the '80s pedophilia anthem "Come on Eileen." On this live incarnation of the album's sound, however, it's impossible not to be drawn in by the band's energy and their warm, expanded sound. Any complaints of cold, tight production that may have been leveled at Clock are obliterated by this bootleg -- the contributions of the full horn section, complemented by Steve Nieve's rollicking, intense keyboards, elevate the Attractions' usual sound to a whole new level. Old concert warhorses like "Watching the Detectives" and "Alison" are reinvented with effective horn lines, while songs drawn from Costello's 1980 faux-soul record Get Happy!! shine all the more brilliantly in full band arrangements. There's also simply a great positive vibe surrounding the show itself; it plays off as a classic '60s soul review, with Costello belting his heart out on some fantastic songs and his band churning along behind him. Taken straight from an FM radio broadcast, the recording is immediate, clear, and packs some solid punch, especially with regard to the sharpness of the horns and the impact of Pete Thomas' drum work. Thanks to that strong sonic quality and the infectious enthusiasm of the performance, Gangster rates as one of the best Costello bootlegs available. As you tear through the closing moments of the show -- a manic "Pump It Up" with the TKO Horns supplying Steve Nieve's trademark keyboard hook -- you'll likely find yourself as breathless as the crowd and performers must have been.
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AllMusic Review by Matthew Springer