The Name of This Band Is Talking Heads – Album of the Year 2021

The Name of This Band Is Talking Heads – Album of the Year 2021

What a year it has been for me musically. 1380 different artists heard. Some 56,000 minutes of music (over 38 days), Fela, Kate Bush, Talking Heads. Talking Heads. Very few albums give me goosebumps at the mention of their name, this is one of them. The Name of this Band is Talking Heads was released in 1982, having been recorded between November 17, 1977 – February 27, 1981. This monumental album is filled with live versions of songs recorded on Talking Heads’ first four studio albums: 77, More Songs About Buildings and Food, Fear of Music, and Remain in Light. For me, this is a monumental, exciting and relentless work. I cannot wait to tell you all about it.

The first LP disk featured the original quartet in recordings from 1977 and 1979, and the second disk featured the expanded ten-piece lineup that toured in 1980 and 1981. Wikipedia

 

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. Allmusic

Now this masterwork of live music consists of 33 tracks so I will not give you chapter and verse on each, rather selecting some of my highlights. The album begins with New Feeling, which is likely what you will experience by the end of the album. It certainly encapsulates how I feel about the album, with its novel frenzied approach. There is a certain nervousness in this track – likely being recorded in 1977 at the beginning of the band’s touring. The confidence they build by the end of this behemoth album is quite surprising.

Pulled Up is one of my favourite Talking Heads songs. The live version has some excellent variations on the studio version. There’s such a positivity and lightness to this, he is speaking to and for us – we have been pulled, pulled up by Byrne!

 

What album has the arrogance of including two versions of the same track, twice? This one of course. Psycho Killer and Stay Hungry are both gifted to us twice, one 1979 and 1981 versions. The first version of Psycho Killer is one of my highlights of the album. Great pace, great bass and a wonderful tense and nervous energy which defined the band’s earlier work.

Found a Job is another terrific live version, with a sensational jam session at the end during which one is floating away on the music, and indeed carried by it.

The Name of This Band‘s approach– collecting various live performances over a four-year period– is more revelatory and rewarding. It functions as both a timeline in which a listener can trace the band’s development and definitive proof that some of their supposed great departures– particularly an accomplished and complex rhythm section– were there from the onset. PItchfork

Air is a final highlights from the earlier recordings, before the full ten set piece joined. There is quietly competence in this track, the musicians are aware of their prodigious talent and showing it off on full display here. There is an excellent variation on the studio version ‘some people don’t know shit about the air’. Just superb.

The second disc borrows a page from Stop Making Sense‘s playbook and recreates the entire set from stops along the band’s Remain in Light tour, including a handful of tracks from the much-bootlegged February 1981 performance at Tokyo’s Nakano Sun Palace. Expanded to a 10-piece band that included Adrian Belew on guitar and Bernie Worrell on keyboards, the bulk of Disc 2’s material gives its studio versions a run for the money. Belew’s nuanced guitar work, more confident contributions from the core members, and the added rhythmic dimension and heft are frequently jawdropping, but the loose beats and a playful Byrne keep claims of muso nonsense at arm’s length. PItchfork

Heaven is one of the better highlights of the album, allowing us to basque in the glow of Byrne. The vocals are languishing, he is singing the track as felts. The arrangement is simple but the effect is quite beautiful.

The next songs are for me a continuous highlight, Psycho Killer, the second version, is even better than the first as the band gains confidence with touring experience. Cities is magnificent, great pace and relentless energy, even a mention of Birmingham. I Zimbra is from Fear of Music and based on a nonsense poem. The high pitched beeping in the background is excellent. The last half of the track with the pseudo-pizzicato, riff and guitar flourishes floors me.

With the exception of Animals, each song from Drugs to the Great Curve is magnificent. The album takes on an energy of its own and transports us headlong towards the magnificent final two tracks. These are some of the more famous Talking Heads songs such as Once in a Lifetime (vocal flourishes keyboard in the background, synth in the middle and the bass add up to something otherworldly).

 

The final few tracks are astonishing and I feel it is quite beyond my powers of description to do them justice. Listen to them, listen to the energy of them and the reaction from the crowd. We are there with them in many ways.

My final highlight will be Take Me to the River – this is a mix between gospel and Blues Brothers bass lines which is intoxicating. The riff is sharp, well honed, the pace is sustained and while the track is not lyrically dense, its simple plea works away at our resistance, pushing us with Byrne into the river. Having been pushed into the river water of Byrne’s mind, we emerge on the other side, a new person.

Overall, this album is an immense (33 tracks!) display of Talking Heads’ talent. They are absolutely an urgent and important group of excellent musicians who demand your attention. The tracks are consistently brilliant and relentless. Surprisingly, there are no dud tracks throughout the album. Talking Heads have become one of my musical idols and this album is them at their career best. I hope you enjoy it.

Almost Album of the Year 2021

Almost Album of the Year 2021

The time has come yet again for AAOTY, where I explore the albums which have meant so much to me over the past 12 months but are not quite god enough to make AOTY. One year I did a post for AAOTM, highlighting 12 albums which did not make the list, but this was a comically massive task which I do not intend to repeat. See below a shorter selections of albums which have meant something to me this year.

Starter for 10/10, Live in Tokyo 2012 has to be one of the best albums I have ever heard, let alone heard this year. Opening with Commercial Breakup , the album gets off to a flying start. This is one of the greatest tracks Dolby recorded. The album continues with songs from The Golden Age of Wireless, Aliens Ate my Buick as well as his latest work A Map of the Floating City as well as his excellent The Flat Earth. It is only not AOTY because of a few, in my view, less good tracks in the middle. But overall this is a very special album.
Kate Bush – The Sensual World
Avid readers will know I have reviewed this masterwork before. I won’t go into more detail than my previous review, however, suffice to say This album has moved me in more ways than I can describe this year. Whenever I wanted to sit down and play an album in full, actually set aside some time for myself, this is the one I would go for. Kate Bush is my number 1 most listened artist this year. And I believe this is my favourite album of hers. It is totally arresting and astonishing. Please do listen with open ears and minds. This is a thing of beauty. The only reason this is not AOTY is because it has been AITM previously.
Kraftwerk – Technopop / Electric Cafe
Thanks to Spotify I know exactly how many times I have listened to this wonderful album this year (27 if you are interested). Again, I have reviewed this before so I won’t go over it again. This is my most listened to album of the year, it is the one I go to when I need to concentrate and deal with a lot of matters in a short amount of time. In fact I got through 25 matters in my work to do list two weeks ago listening to this album. I love this and think it is one of the best albums they have made.
Talking Heads – 77
Are you noticing a theme here? I have reviewed this recently and can confirm that I have listened to it about 7 times since writing the review. Talking Heads have pretty much defined the latter part of this year. They have changed my life. Please do listen to this incredible piece of musical art.
Fela Kuti and Ginger Baker – Live!
Finally, the final album which I have reviewed already, Live! To be honest this should have been AOTY. The only reason it is not is because I wrote about it in June. I was so eager to share it with my subscribers that I got ahead of myself. This has made its way to my top pantheon of amazing albums. My thanks to Jack for introducing me to Fela Kuti this year.
Overall, as predicted, 2021 has been the year of live music. I have enjoyed a panoply of exquisite albums, having heard 1380 different artists this year, many of whose content has been live. I look forward to sharing AOTY with you in the next post…
Bakkerswinkel Utrecht – Canal Side Bakery

Bakkerswinkel Utrecht – Canal Side Bakery

Bakkerswinkel sounds like a disease but in fact was quite a wonderful bakery in Utrecht. Celia and I were so cold that we did not spend much time outside. We rushed from lunch to Belgisch to this wonderful bakery. Unfortunately I was a bit pre-occupied because the UK return requirements had just changed and I needed to book the correct nose swab on my return. However, I really enjoyed the peace of this bakery and the unique settling, under street level, arched ceilings and almost eye level with the canal.

I ordered an almond tart which was delightful and soft. The almond flavour was present but not overwhelming, just how I like it. Celia went for a beautiful carrot cake. Regrettably I did not get a close up but you can see it in the below photograph of me relaxed after sorting out my impending travel nightmare.

Observe the moist even layers of sponge and beautifully thick and consistent cream. The filling was balanced, nutty and almost outrageously flavourful. For once, I did not order the best thing on the menu, however I was without doubt the best dressed and eye-browed.

Overall this was an excellent place to enjoy some mint tea, cappuccino and cake in fabulous Utrecht. I recommend it to you if you are in the area. There is also a delightful resident kitty which will be seated on a bench near you!

 

Gourmet Food Kitchen, Coventry – Dining As It Should Be

Gourmet Food Kitchen, Coventry – Dining As It Should Be

At times in my life I have believed in divine intervention more ardently than others. On Saturday last, for example, arguably one of the more difficult days of my time in Birmingham, I ended up in Coventry quite by chance. Further, once there, the cafe I would go to usually, Rising Cafe, the first place I reviewed on this blog, was closed permanently. Dutifully, as can be expected of me by readers of this blog, I whipped out my Trip Advisor and did a search of the local offerings. I did not fancy a Vietnamese restaurant with many fake reviews, at least not for lunch. The second choice was Gourmet Food Kitchen, in the Coventry Outpost of Fargo Village. Fargo, not the town in Minnesota, is a wonderful place, a sort of arty collective about 15 minutes walk from the centre. I have been visiting for some years but was quite surprised to find this gem of a restaurant there.

Chef Tony stands proudly behind his grill, catering to the 12 covers before him, and regales us with the method behind his madness. He tells us everything we are about to consume is made freshly. Tony cures his own bacon and cuts and cooks it from frozen (as it keeps its form better that way). He tells us he stuffs his own sausages, and smokes his own salmon with cherrywood, rather than oak. Chef Tony also makes his own terrine, and sold me a bit of game terrine which I will enjoy at Christmas when my parents ascend from the South. See my Full English below.

Me: Chef, where is that music coming from?

Chef: I have an Alexa behind that sausage stuffer.

My Full English included bubble & squeak, home stuffed sausage, sweet homemade black pudding, a delightful tomato, freshly made beans (better than Heinz by a country mile) and a fibrous combination of mushrooms and spinach, as well as two slices of excellent soft home cured bacon and two perfectly poached eggs. Some like their bacon cremated, I enjoy it soft and flavourful. This was achieved by Chef by cooking it in an oven rather than frying it. I seldom say this but everything was exquisite. The black pudding was perhaps a bit sweet for me, but this should not detract form this five star feast. The quality and freshness of this food cannot be described. To have chef in front of us telling us about his food with passion was a wonderful experience. Chef Tony has little patience for nonsense and the results of his culinary ethos speaks for itself.

Charlotte enjoyed a beautiful eggs Hemingway with home smoked salmon. Why Hemingway? The ham on the eggs Benedict has been replaced by salmon. So the dish consists of an English muffin (or similar), smoked salmon, a poached egg and on this occasion a whiskey infused Hollandaise which tantalised absolutely. Now, I do not like fish, but this salmon was the absolute bomb. I could not believe the depth of flavour, the richness of the cherrywood being so different to ordinary oak. This was a triumphant dish.

Divine intervention? I surely think so. Were it not for an unfortunate series of regrettable events, I would not have sampled this heavenly feast. I am grateful for my guardian angel guiding me to these excellent places and allowing me to enjoy some sparse positive experiences at this trying time. Please do go to see Chef Tony. He is only open a few days a week so it might be an idea to book beforehand.

 

Belgisch Biercafé Olivier Utrecht – Religious Experience

Belgisch Biercafé Olivier Utrecht – Religious Experience

Housed in a former Catholic clandestine church (the outside facade is indistinguishable from the elegant townhouses of the street), this Belgian bar came as quite a surprise to me. We had a hard time finding it but we managed in the end. Once inside I was quite impressed by the beautiful ceiling, many original features and a stunning organ.

Belgian beer café Olivier Utrecht is located in the former schuilkerk Maria Minor, to Achter Clarenburg. Many elements of the ‘schuilkerk’ from 1860 have been preserved, such as: the altar, the vaults and the organ, making it a special place in Utrecht with fantastic specialty beers from Belgium. Like A Local Guide 

We ordered two alcoholic beverages. Mine was the Boon Framboise which was quite stunning. According to the promotional material, “Boon Framboise is an easy drinking and subtle, raspberry-sweet, oaky, raspberry lambiek fruit beer” I can see Nick (formerly Saint) reading the above and quite falling from his chair. Yes I did consume a beer but it was as close to cider as possible!

The above is the view we were treated to this glorious bronze statue of a Pope and two Bishops! While we did not stay long or consume much, envious stolen glances at the food of other diners made for tantalising viewing. I should hope to come here again with Nick next time so he can sample the delectable Belgian beer. I wonder if they used it to de-consecrate the altar.