May 2006

Talking Heads - Talking Heads: 77
Sire/Warner Bros./Rhino 76449
Format: DualDisc
Originally released: 1977
Re-released: 2006

Musical Performance ****1/2
Recording Quality ***
Overall Enjoyment ****

Talking Heads - Speaking in Tongues
Sire/Warner Bros./Rhino 76453
Format: DualDisc
Originally released: 1983
Re-released: 2006

Musical Performance ****
Recording Quality ***1/2
Overall Enjoyment ****

by Marc Mickelson

The output of America's foremost college-radio band, Talking Heads, can be neatly categorized into two phases. The band's earliest albums -- Talking Heads: 77, More Songs About Buildings and Food, Fear of Music, and Remain in Light -- are spare and artsy, firmly rooted in the post-punk and New Wave movements, and mostly the work of the bands' core membership: David Byrne, Chris Franz, Jerry Harrison, and Tina Weymouth. Phase two, Talking Heads' late period, is represented by Speaking in Tongues, Little Creatures and Naked. These are more rhythmic, even danceable, albums that display frontman and chief songwriter David Byrne's expanding musical palette. The music is busier yet more accessible, and there are more people making it.

Even hardcore Heads fans have their preference for the early or later albums. Fortunately for all, Rhino has reissued each of the band's studio releases, including the odd album out: True Stories, the soundtrack for one of the worst movies ever made. All are DualDiscs that offer CD-resolution stereo mixes on one side and high-resolution multichannel DVD-Audio mixes on the other. The sound is squeaky-clean and forceful, and it makes that of the originally released CDs sound slightly softer due to a fine overlaying scrim. The DVD-As' 24-bit/96kHz resolution cranks up the clarity without becoming piercing. I listened to the discs in stereo only (we two-channel audiophiles are making the biggest deal out of high-resolution music these days), but I understand that the multichannel mixes are well done, perhaps because keyboard player Jerry Harrison oversaw them.

New music today isn't this inventive and memorable, making these DualDiscs the perfect way of rediscovering Talking Heads or hearing the band for the first time. All (minus True Stories) are essential.