Friday, August 2, 2013

The Heaviest Album I've Heard - Talking Heads Brick Box Set

The Heaviest Album I Own

The suggestion was made to “…write a review of the Heaviest album we've ever heard”.  “We” being the staff writers of The Ripple Effect.  Obviously the first thing that came to my mind was writing about the nastiest, gnarliest, most brutal heavy metal album in my collection.  But wait.  I was confident that several of my fellow writers would eloquently and passionately take this approach.  Shouldn’t I strive to add a little variety to the proceedings?  I’d say it was my duty to the site!  So how can I interpret the wording of this topic to my advantage?  Eureka!  I’ll go through my collection and literally weigh some of my albums/box sets to discover which is the heaviest!  Let’s see…

Floor Below & Beyond CD Set – 1.4 lbs
Talking Heads Brick Box Set– 2.3 lbs
DMB Big Whiskey And The Groux Groux King Super Deluxe Edition – 2.7 lbs
Led Zeppelin Box Set – 2.7 lbs
Black Sabbath Black Box – 2.7 lbs

Okay then.  As you can see, we have a three way tie for first place.  The trouble is I don’t want to review any of those three options.  I am a huge Sabbath fan and writing up one of their albums for this column seemed the most obvious choice.  But honestly, does anyone really need to hear what I have to say about this great band?  No.  Especially considering there is not a fantastical story involved.  Moving on to the next contestant.  I think Led Zeppelin is great.  I have to be honest however and say that my interest in their discography seriously waned after IV.  Besides that we once again run into the whole ‘oversaturation of praise’ problem.  That leaves the super deluxe version of Dave Matthews Band’s Big Whiskey.  While I will not deny how much this band’s output meant to me back in the day (an awful lot) I’m afraid I haven’t been able to enjoy their music for some time now (actually I’ve just listened to some of this album again and I have to say it sounds far better than I remembered…interesting).  So, how about the Talking Heads box set?  I think we have a winner!

To say that this is a unique set in my collection is a bit of an understatement.  To begin with it is the only box set of Dual Discs that I own.  Does anybody else remember Dual Discs; those thick circular platters that are a CD on one side and a DVD on the other?  You know, what was marketed as a huge leap forward in audio delivery technology?  Yeah, didn’t think so.  In theory these dual discs were pretty cool, but in practice many players failed to read them because of their thickness.  Also I can’t imagine that it was cheaper to produce a Dual Disc than it was to simply package a CD and a DVD together in a jewel case.  That is just a guess on my part however.  I don’t have any factual evidence to support my hypothesis.  Outside of the discs themselves the box itself stands out.  It is made of bright white plastic, and each side of the box is completely covered with embossed song titles.  Very cool.

The musical content of this set is spectacular!  It contains all eight studio albums produced by the Talking Heads.  Each album was remastered, and the difference in sound quality from the original CD releases is stunning.  Bonus tracks, including B-sides and several insightful demos, have been added onto each album.  To make the deal even sweeter the DVD side of each Dual Disc has the respective album mixed in 5.1 surround sound and rare live performance clips.  While this box does not in fact contain everything the Talking Heads ever released, it certainly is not lacking for content.  What’s that you say?  You’re not familiar with the Talking Heads?  My apologies.

The Talking Heads emerged in New York City in the mid-1970s as part of the whole CBGB scene along with The Ramones, Television, etc.  Their music radically evolved over the course of their career.  Initially they had a relatively straightforward pop-rock sound with more than a bit of edge to it, which then morphed into a world-music-electro-pop-funk sound, and eventually a mix of the two approaches.  The descriptor adventurous is perfectly suited here.  Personally I prefer the band’s more straightforward pop-rock material, but there are times when the worldly funk tracks really hit the spot.  My favorite Talking Heads songs are “Don’t Worry About The Government”, “Found A Job”, “Once In A Lifetime”, and the transcendent “Air”.  I guarantee your list will vary, and that’s a wonderful thing!

Unfortunately, if you really want this particular box set you will have to fork over a princely sum.  The albums can all be purchased separately of course, but several of the individual Dual Discs are rather scarce and have steep asking prices as well.  Unless you are fixated on obtaining the 5.1 surround mixes I’d advise just picking up the regular CDs.  Start at the beginning with Talking Heads: ‘77 and work your way forward.  The musical journey is extraordinary!

Well…that’s it.  I have officially derailed this theme week.  Kudos to me!

--Penfold








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