Friday, November 25, 2005

Talking Heads build a masterpiece...brick by brick!

Artist: Talking Heads
Title: Talking Heads Brick
Format: Dualdisc (CD/DVD-Audio)
5.1 Mixes By E.T. Thorngren & Jerry Harrison
Mastered by Ted Jensen

Finally! I've finally been able to digest this entire box set of the Talking Heads complete studio releases. Never before has an artist's complete works been released in surround all at once, at least not to this extent. All I can say is this might just be the greatest surround reissue to date, for almost every reason you can think of!

Talking Heads burst onto the scene out of New York in 1977, with a New Wave-ish, energetic style of pop fronted by the geeky, gangly David Byrne, supported by guitarist/keyboardist Jerry Harrison and the rock solid rhythm section of bassist Tina Weymouth and drummer Chris Frantz. As they evolved they ran the gamut from funk to African rhythms to simple pop and rock. This collection of 8 studio releases shows off their ability play music that is smart, clever and at the same time very danceable! Keeping ones foot from tapping is a difficult task when playing this set!

The music:
Starting with 77, the Heads show some great pop sensibilities with songs such as Uh Oh, Love Comes To Town and the classic Psycho Killer. With Brian Eno taking over the producer's chair for More Songs About Buildings And Food, we hear things start to change with a more atmospheric sound, such as the classic swamp drenched cover of Al Green's Take Me To The River. Eno would produce 4 consecutive Heads albums (Buildings....followed by Fear Of Music, Remain In Light, and Speaking In Tongues). Each successive one getting more intricate and syncopated, with killer tracks like Crosseyed and Painless, Once In A Lifetime, Burning Down The House and Swamp. The next two albums, Little Creatures and True Stories, found the band producing themselves and returning to a more pop oriented sound, with songs like Stay Up Late and Wild Wild Life, before finally getting back to the heavy funk and African influenced sound of their final release, Naked, with the beautiful track (Nothing But) Flowers and the horn driven and super bad beat of Mr. Jones.

It is rare to find a band's body of music to be almost flawless and so consistent. Other than some self indulgence on Fear Of Music and Remain In Light, this band basically blew me away, as I was always a casual fan and considered them to be rather smarmy and stuck up. My opinion has drastically changed! They are one of the most important bands in music history and current bands such as Franz Ferdinand and The Killers are forever indebted to the Heads.
Score: 9/10

The mixes:
What can I say, these might be the best surround mixes ever! Thorngren and Harrison's use of space and their speaker placement is impeccable. As with any good surround mix, not only are the speakers used but the space between the speakers! They were not afraid to put sounds dead rear center, just behind the listener's head. There is plenty of movement as well. Vocals appear out of every speaker. Just perfect! If one had to find one song to single out from all of these great tunes, it would have to be Burning Down The House. A 5.1 showcase if there ever was one!
Score: 10/10

The sound: Ted Jensen's mastering is superb. Everything sounds warm, full and vibrant! Guitars ring clearly and bass and drums pound with force without sounding too aggressive. No shrill highs. No faults at all!
Score: 10/10

Overall: Despite the 9 for music....a big 10 !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

A must for any lover of surround......or music for that matter!


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