I do love Mr Byrne with almost my whole heart, please believe me. However, I have to cast some dark clouds over the previous glowing reviews of this item. You have to remember this music was written to accompany a play (or rather, the 'knees' between the main play), not to be listened to on its own, or danced to, or anything else. I'm sure it fulfilled its function at the time excellently. But we are not watching the performance here. From the descriptions, the performance sounded very dynamic, lively, colourful, a you-had-to-be-there-type experience... But all we have here is a DVD comprising black and white still photos (in sync with the music, yes) one fading slowly into the next. Hundreds of photos yes, but not nearly enough to give any sense of the movement that must have been taking place. One tableau dissolves into the next; sometimes with little apparent change, sometimes with no way to guess what just happened, or where all these figures just appeared from... I tried desperately to pay attention for the full hour (or so) to follow the story, but my mind kept rebelling. It just isn't very watchable in my opinion.
The music itself is a little repetitive, a bit like Philip Glass (no bad thing). There is no singing, mostly brass instruments. And Byrne's voice-over monologues take place in some of the tracks. They are like other pieces of Byrne's writing when he seems to 'let himself go' a bit and write without being tied to a concrete function. I love these texts. I would play the CD as background music perhaps while I was doing something else, cooking perhaps. But there are no songs. This is not really music designed to be paid attention to.
Someone mentioned "Catherine Wheel". That was also music to accompany. But the CW music to my taste is much more complete. It has songs, it has instrumentals of different texture and mood, it has far more variety than the KP music. CW is very listenable. Perhaps the difference is really caused by the differences in the performances themselves. I get the idea that the 'civil war' (knee plays) performances were somewhat minimalistic...? I'm sure the music suited it well.
I too am immeasurably glad this music has been re-released on CD. But at the end of the day this is just not one of my favourite Byrne/Heads CDs.
Firstly, let me say that finally having this on CD is an astonishing thing. I had the vinyl all those years ago, but haven't heard it for many years. So here it is, ready for reappraisal. I must be honest, it is far better than I recall. This is a Byrne album through and through, and fans of his work (especially solo work such as Catherine Wheel and even later works like Grown Backward) should have no heistation in picking it up. It's just perfect.
Of course, this edition includes a DVD (of the CD content with accompanying slide show), but we all know about that from the description of the product. What needs mentioning are the excellent liner notes. Byrne has written a lucid article on the genesis and creation of the music that is a truly fantastic read. It's lengthy, meaty, informative, and fascinating.
As for the spoken word nature of the vocals, well, is you're a Talking Heads fan and enjoy the likes of "Remain in Light" then this should not be much of a shock or you - let alone if you enjoy "Catherine Wheel". It's no barrier, and personally I find it highly enjoyable (Laurie Anderson fans will be completely at home here).
Of course, the sound is perfect, easily on a par with the recent reissue series (would have loved to have this is Surround, but that wasn't to be). All in all, this wins becuase it's a complete winner - high quality writing, production, and packaging.
Byrne fans, I hope, have already ordered it. But if you're on the fence for some reason then it's time to jump down and join in the party.
Thanks to Nonesuch and Byrne for getting this out. You've made my year! Love all round, music like this should never be lost.
I had the vinyl of this and a couple of years ago got a friend to burn it onto a CD for me so I can enjoy it in the 21st century on modern technology. It is a total joy - David Byrne basically sets his flights of fancy to brass band music, all of which is totally hummable. If you like Talking Heads, especially 'True Stories', then you'll love this so rush out and buy it immediately!!