Talking Heads – Remasters Reviews

Talking Heads

The Inside Pulse: This was a long time coming. More than a decade had passed before “new” Talking Heads material was officially released on 2003’s Once In A Lifetime boxed set, a fantastic 3 disc affair that trumped its 1992 predecessor Popular Favorites in terms of sonic quality and overall package. The inclusion of several unearthed rarities as well as an expanded Storytelling Giant DVD of all their videos did justice to the Heads’ legacy. In 2004 we finally saw the CD release of The Name of This Band is Talking Heads, which, while expanded and remastered on 2 discs left us all wondering … when would Rhino get around to remastering the rest of the catalog? The eight studio albums have been sorely in need of remastering; with the wealth of unreleased material, Rhino could go many different routes.

Last year, Rhino whetted our collective appetites by taking their seemingly usual route: releasing all eight albums as the Talking Heads Brick, a fantastically packaged boxed set offered at a slightly prohibitive price, hinting that the individual releases would soon follow. Fortunately they were true to their word. Each disc is presented exclusively as a DualDisc, with a “regular” CD on one side and a DVD on the other. The CD side, mixed in Advanced Resolution Stereo, contains anywhere from two to five bonus tracks while the DVD side contain the albums mixed in 5.1 as well as music videos and live performances from the period. Both Eric Thorngren, who was a producer for the Talking Heads, as well as Jerry Harrison mixed the album in 5.1 surround, which was a major relief knowing that the original artist was involved. The sound is stellar. I can’t comment on each and every song, but to hear each of these albums remastered, every nuance becomes noticeably clearer. Some of these albums benefit more than others from the 5.1 mix than others, depending on the original production and instrumentation, but I’ll discuss that more with the individual albums.

Talking Heads: 77′s bonus tracks include “Love=Building on Fire”, “I Wish You Wouldn’t Say That” and “Sugar on My Tongue”, all previously released on Popular Favorites as well as the Once In a Lifetime box. The real treats are an acoustic version of “Psycho Killer” and the previously unreleased “I Feel It in My Heart.” Both of these songs are presented as bonus tracks on the DVD side as well, with “Psycho Killer” mixed in 5.1 and “I Feel It in My Heart” performed in 1976 live in New York City, with Chris Frantz playing xylophone. Also on the DVD side is the bonus 1978 performance of “Pulled Up” live in California. I was too young to see the Talking Heads perform live, contemporaneously with the current time (other than at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, and that was on TV), but these performances give you a sense that the Talking Heads had a vision; while they may have had humble beginnings, this initial spark would guide them to greatness.

More Songs About Buildings and Food contains an early version of “Stay Hungry” that was recorded for the ’77 album. In addition, alternate versions of “I’m Not in Love”, “The Big Country” and “Thank You For Sending Me an Angel”. Of the three, “Angel” is most notable as it is the “Country Angel” version, full of jangly guitars and organ work not typical of the Talking Heads, and is a gem of this reissue series. The DVD side presents 1978 live performances of “Found a Job” and “Warning Sign,” both interesting, but not as endearing as the live tracks on ’77.

True Stories offers up the previously released extended mix of “Wild Wild Life” as well as the Pops Staples version of “Papa Legba” (also in 5.1 on the DVD side) as it was performed in the movie. Also included is the Tito Larriva version of “Radio Head”, also from the movie. Besides the Pops Staples song, the DVD contains videos for “Wild Wild Life” and “Love for Sale,” both of which appear on the Storytelling Giant DVD. Of the discs, I found True Stories to be the biggest lost opportunity. Most of the bonus material has been previously released; the Pops Staples and Tito Larriva versions were the way to go; the producers could have continued to release the OTHER film versions, like the kids’ singing “Hey Now” or any of the other versions. In addition, it would have been nice to see an official CD release, or even selections from Sounds from True Stories, probably deleted and previously available only on LP and cassette. The inclusion of the videos makes sense, as they were integral to the movie, but more bonus tracks would have been nice.

Unfortunately, Naked contains no unreleased bonus material. While including the fantastic “Sax and Violins” (from the Until the End of the World soundtrack, Popular Favorites AND Once in a Lifetime) on the CD side, and a 5.1 mix of that song as well as its music video on the DVD side, Naked ignores everyone’s favorite bonus track, “Lifetime Piling Up”, the Once in a Lifetime exclusive “In Asking Land” and the moderately decent “Popsicle” and “Gangster of Love”, both bonus tracks from Popular Favorites. I must say, however that the 5.1 mix of this album is fantastic. Steve Lillywhite’s original production is definitely enhanced by the stereo separation, and makes for an enlightened look into the nuances of an album that was troubling for the band to create.

The Positives: Overall, these releases are notable for the remastered sound, especially on the earlier 2 albums, with the 5.1 mix enhancing Naked. The live footage, especially on ’77 is fantastic, and I wish there was more if it! The “Country Angel” version on More Songs About Buildings and Food is a gem of a bonus track. I will hope to one day review the remaining 4 albums in this series … from what I understand, they are phenomenal!

The Negatives: The lost opportunity of bonus material on True Stories and Naked.

Cross-Breed: There is no cross-breed. The name of this band is Talking Heads.

Reason to Buy: If you are a Talking Heads fan; if you, like me, have been sitting on your cassette versions waiting, just KNOWING that CD remasters were coming along eventually; if you want to hear the greatest band of the 80s SOUND the way they should.