Talking Heads

Stop Making Sense

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While there's no debating the importance of Jonathan Demme's classic film record of Talking Heads' 1983 tour, the soundtrack released in support of it is a thornier matter. Since its release, purists have found Stop Making Sense slickly mixed and, worse yet, incomprehensive. The nine tracks included jumble and truncate the natural progression of frontman David Byrne's meticulously arranged stage show. Cries for a double-album treatment -- à la 1982's live opus The Name of This Band Is Talking Heads -- were sounded almost immediately; more enterprising fans merely dubbed the VHS release of the film onto cassette tape. So, until a 1999 "special edition" cured the 1984 release's ills, fans had to make do with the Stop Making Sense they were given -- which is, by any account, an exemplary snapshot of a band at the height of its powers. Even with some of his more memorable tics edited out, Byrne is in fine voice here: Never before had he sounded warmer or more approachable, as evidenced by his soaring rendition of "Once in a Lifetime." Though almost half the album focuses on Speaking in Tongues material, the band makes room for one of Byrne's Catherine Wheel tunes (the hard-driving, elliptical "What a Day That Was") as well as up-tempo versions of "Pyscho Killer" and "Take Me to the River." If anything, Stop Making Sense's emphasis on keyboards and rhythm is its greatest asset as well as its biggest failing: Knob-tweakers Chris Frantz and Jerry Harrison play up their parts at the expense of the treblier aspects of the performance, and fans would have to wait almost 15 years for reparations. Still, for a generation that may have missed the band's seminal '70s work, Stop Making Sense proves to be an excellent primer.

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