Ah, to be alive and musically aware in 1977. The Clash, Led Zeppelin, Aerosmith, Frank Zappa and so many others at the top of their rock game. Not to mention the Talking Heads were just getting started. David Byrne, Jerry Harrison, Chris Frantz and Tina Weymouth were intelligent, self-conscious musicians who incorporated powerful rhythms with fury and imagination.
The Name Of This Band Is Talking Heads reveals the group at their most new-wave, experimental and funkiest, covering three distinct creative periods of their career. A classic already in the making, the album covers live hidden gems in the early years which produced their first four albums – 77, More Songs About Buildings And Food, Fear Of Music, and Remain In Light.
Originally issued in 1982, this new release expands the original LP set to twice its original length, filling 33 songs containing rare favorites hardly heard live, including classic non-radio hits like “The Girls Want To Be With The Girls,” The Book I Read,” and “A Clean Break (Let’s Work).” Lead singer Byrne’s voice is in its larva elastic stage: stretching, snorkeling and mixing jibberish with clever commentary.
The first disc further explores various live tunes of the first three albums from 1977-1979, including their Brian Eno collaboratives that toyed with electronic sounds, while further journeying into polyrhythmic textures. The early classics smoke with late 70’s electricity as new-wavers “Pulled Up” and “Who Is It” groove effortlessly, whle an extended jittery guitar jam at the end of “Psycho Killer” mixes the band’s diverse styles. The hidden gem is “Artists Only,” where Byrne storms up cynical and self-effacing conversations with himself making various playful voice effects, resulting in pure amusement. The clear recordings further exemplify how multi-versatile Jerry Harrison was, added a swab mass of electronic effects that made the four piece sound larger than the sum of its parts.
Fast forward to 1980 and while most bands were experimenting with synthesizers, the Talking Heads made a more denser sythn based album incorporating vocals and percussion into their most dignified recording – Remain In Light. Disc 2 documents the ten person Talking Heads lineup assembled for the album’s 1980-1981 tour which included keyboardist Bernie Worrell, guitarist Adrian Belew, bassist Busta Cherry Jones, percussionist Steve Scales and singers Nona Hendryx and Dollette McDonald.
The groove heavy Remain In Light tour would have given George Clinton and either of his Parliament or Funkadelic tour offerings a run for freeing your mind and letting your ass follow. “Stay Hungry” is given a sythn-dance workout courtesy of Bernie Worrell, while “The Great Curve” is energized by Dolette McDonald and Nona Hendryx’s soulful background vocals that incorporate shades of free-styling. Meanwhile what would the tour be without orchestrated funk monsters “Crosseyed and Painless,” “Born Under Punches,” “Cities” and “I Zimbra,” proving that the band pulled these complex tunes as the real deal on stage.
According to the liner notes, this represents only a fraction of the live Talking Heads recordings from the archives. As the live tracks begin to roll out, you owe it to yourself to give The Name Of This Band Is Talking Heads a dent in your CD player and hear first hand why the Talking Heads were just so damn good.