Bruce Hornsby was 32 when "That's the Way It Is" hit number one and made him a star in the winter of 1986-1987, and he has used that stardom differently from the way a 22-year-old might have. You might say he's deliberately dismantled his popularity, gradually dispensing with the Range, the backing band he used to bill on his records, and with his brother John, who used to write his lyrics, while making progressively less song-oriented records that have traced a steadily declining sales curve to the point that his sixth album, the 1998 double-CD Spirit Trail, spent only two weeks in the charts. Or you might say he's used his popularity, spending it on musical legitimacy by turning away from pop music, indulging in side projects such as his part-time membership in the Grateful Dead. Here Come the Noise Makers, a two-CD live album drawn from concerts in 1998-2000, is, he says, a gift to "our fans, our true fans," which is to say those who have stuck with him. His gift includes renditions of his biggest hits, "That's the Way It Is," "Mandolin Rain," and "The Valley Road," as well as hits he wrote, "Jacob's Ladder" and "The End of the Innocence," embedded in lengthy arrangements with lots of invocations of his musical influences -- the Dead, George Gershwin, Samuel Barber, Bill Evans, Bud Powell, and Bob Dylan among them. Hornsby is determined to create a hybrid style that encompasses rock, jazz, and classical music within a jam band mentality. If he doesn't succeed, it may be because there aren't enough "true fans" out there to follow him, or it may be because he is so impressed with his own showoff-ish virtuosity that he hasn't bothered to write music compelling enough to support his goals.
AllMusic Review by William Ruhlmann
Track Listing - Disc 1
Track Listing - Disc 2