Talking Heads

The Name of This Band Is Talking Heads

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Although most people probably think the only Talking Heads live release is Stop Making Sense, the fact is that there's an earlier, better live album called The Name of This Band Is Talking Heads. Originally released in 1982 on LP and cassette, the album chronicles the growth of the band, both stylistically and personnel-wise. The first LP is the original quartet version of the band, recorded between 1977 and 1979, performing excellent versions of tunes (mostly) off 77 and More Songs About Buildings and Food. Also included were the previously unavailable "A Clean Break" and "Love Goes to a Building on Fire," as well as early versions of "Memories Can't Wait" and "Air." The second LP comes from the Remain in Light tour, recorded in 1980 and 1981. In order to present something close to the music on that album, the original quartet lineup was greatly expanded. Added were two percussionists (Steven Stanley, Jose Rossy), two backup singers (Nona Hendryx, Dollette McDonald), Busta Cherry Jones on bass, Bernie Worrell (!) on keys, and a young Adrian Belew on lead guitar. The excitement of this material is palpable, and the muscular band rips into these tunes with more power than the originals in most cases. "Drugs" gets revamped for live performance, and "Houses in Motion kicks into high gear with a great art-funk coda. Belew is absolutely on fire throughout, especially on "The Great Curve" and "Crosseyed and Painless," where his deranged feedback soloing has never sounded better. At this point in their career, Talking Heads were still basically an underground band; it was "Burning Down the House" that really thrust them into the mainstream, and Stop Making Sense documents their arrival as a more or less mainstream act. The Name of This Band Is Talking Heads captures a hungry band on its way up, performing with a fire that was never matched on later tours. Unfortunately, The Name of This Band Is Talking Heads remained unavailable on compact disc for years, which is a shame since it's arguably one of their finest releases.

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