This album is simply amazing. Tina Weymouth on bass, Byrne belting out his sometime strangulated lyrics and the whole produced with energy by Brian Eno. It doesn't get much better. Punk rock, country, reggae are all there along with inspired lyrics. Impossible to define, this second album is a masterpiece, showcasing intelligent music. Another classic I've rediscovered thanks to bargain £1.99 mp3 download.
This is the essence of Talking Heads, Okay, so I know Brian Eno's on board now and it changes their sound dramatically from 77 but it's still tight and in control. I saw them touring this and it was one of the best gigs I've ever been to - they could pretty much do it live. Typical quirky songs, neat guitar phrases, I love Tina's bass,however much everyone else disparages it. If you only get one Heads album I'd recommend this one. Later stuff can get a bit overindulgent and too much studio production. 'Buildings' still retains it's soul, energy, integrity and essence. Screw loose and fancy free.
Most of what has been written about this series, starting with the Brick box set has focused on the 5.1 DVD remixes. Since I don't have a surround system, here's a few words on the CD in package.
Firstly, the CD in this CD+DVDA set is a completely separate disc to the DVD. No double-sided, incompatible with lots of things, dualdisc. Secondly, it has 4 bonus tracks unlisted by Amazon. They are: Stay Hungry (1977 version), I'm Not in Love (Alternative version), The Big Country (alternate version), and Thank you for sending me an angel (Country Angel version).
It would be fair to say from the get go that the bonus tracks are not why you want this CD. Stay Hungry and The Big Country sound here as rejects from TH '77. The Alternate version to I'm Not in Love is a novelty version (at least today it sounds it) with massive flanging and phasing effects all over certain instruments. The only thing among the extras worth hearing more than once is the Country Angel version of "Thank you for sending me an angel". It's like the original version, but the with the country elements turned up. It works fine, though I still strongly prefer the original.
The cover says the CD is remastered. In most cases this means that some mastering engineer has slovenly run the tape through a savage peak limiter, screwed up the volume by 5-10dB, and instant remaster! This remaster though is an entirely different animal. While it is louder than previous masters (about 3dB louder than Sand in the Vaseline and 7db louder than the original MSABAF CD), the big differences are in two areas: the bass and the details.
This CD has MUCH more bass than the original. On "Take me to the river" I measured an increase of 10dB at 55Hz and 20dB at 30Hz (set to an equivalent volume at 1kHz). The treble is slightly dropped to, though this is only 1-2dB.
The result is a much weightier, more modern sound. This no longer sounds like lightweight pop, it's getting bolshie and powerful. The music is immensely engaging (it always was of course) in a new way. It drives, it hits, it moves.
The other thing is the details, and here I am starting to wonder if something more than remastering has gone on, cause I'm hearing so much new music. I suspect these things were always there because when I go back I can hear the things I am hearing for the first time on the early pressings, but now there are stereo placements and details, especially I am guessing Eno's input, that stand out much more clearly. And this isn't just the volume making them stand out since I have adjusted for that. There is space here I have never noticed - and the space gives room for instruments to appear more clearly. David's voice is very clear in the mix, and his manic intensity is even more powerful than ever. And all this is before you even get to the DVD! my money was rarely better spent.
On this second album, those Talking Heads trademarks still sound fresh and innovative: the unusual song structures, weird evocative lyrics, pained vocals and jagged rhythms. My favorites include The Girls Want To Be With The Girls, I'm Not In Love, the cover of Take Me To The River (interpreted as a type of anthem) and the remarkable track The Big Country with its country flavor, flowing rhythms and cinematic imagery. In retrospect, the sentiment of the song was snobbish but it charmed me way back in 1978. Talking Heads were in the same league as Television, Patti Smith, Richard Hell and the Voidoids - a new wave of music with poetic substance, as opposed to the 3-chord punk wonders of the time. Read all about it in From The Velvets To The Voidoids by Clinton Heylin. It still sounds great today.
"MSABAF" is Talking Heads at their very best, before the Eighties rolled in and they slowly disappeared up their own fundaments. Funkier than a sack full of chinchillas, MSABAF is crammed full of genius. "Stay Hungry" "Warning Sign" and "Found A Job" stand head and shoulders above the rest of the record - David Byrne barking mad lyrics over the tightest rythyms imaginable, before a monster riff erupts to the fore, leaving you wondering how four geeky white folks could produce something so hugely funky. It's fantastic. The rest of the record is almost as fine - with the exception of the out of place cover of "Take me to the river", there's not a weak tune to be had. MSABAF didn't produce any hit singles (Al Green cover versions excluded), but it produced Talking Heads' most enjoyable album of all, not to mention the best record of the New Wave era. Essential.