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Big Swing Face
     

Big Swing Face

3.0 1
by Bruce Hornsby
 

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Big Swing Face is a radical detour for Bruce Hornsby, who's best known for the jazz-inflected, piano-driven pop he's won over fans with since his 1986 debut, The Way It Is. To reinvent himself, Hornsby uses a cornucopia of recording chicanery, including drum loops and electronic beats, which take a front seat to the ringing

Overview

Big Swing Face is a radical detour for Bruce Hornsby, who's best known for the jazz-inflected, piano-driven pop he's won over fans with since his 1986 debut, The Way It Is. To reinvent himself, Hornsby uses a cornucopia of recording chicanery, including drum loops and electronic beats, which take a front seat to the ringing piano Hornsby fans have come to expect. The lanky singer-songwriter has always had a marked improvisational bent, informed by his jazz training and membership in the Grateful Dead, and it serves him well on songs such as the ethereal, polyrhythmic title track, reminiscent of Synchronicity-era Police; the ambient exercise "The Chill," with its pockets of wobbly reverb, and "Try Anything Once," flush with clanking beats and gritty guitar. Elsewhere, he kicks off the rubbery funk of "Take Out the Trash" with a hip-hop beat that would do fellow Virginia native Timbaland proud, employs a Muddy Waters sample on the equally bouncy "Cartoons & Candy," and brings in the drawling rap of 70-year-old co-writer Floyd Hill, Jr. for the N'awlins groove "No Home Training." With this exciting and challenging collection of songs, Bruce Hornsby finds himself quite a ways from "The Valley Road."

Editorial Reviews

All Music Guide - Stephen Thomas Erlewine
Never let it be said that Bruce Hornsby has had a predictable career. He very well could have followed one of two paths after his first two albums -- he could have continued turning out heartland rock, or slipped into adult contemporary balladeering. He chose a third path -- a restless, sometimes bewildering, foray into experimentation, heavy on jazz and improvisation; there was a reason he played with the Grateful Dead, after all. This led to a series of records that relied more on instrumentals than songs, culminating in 1998's sprawling double-disc set, Spirit Trail. By that point, only his hardcore fans were still paying attention, but even they could not have predicted the sharp change in direction on its follow-up, 2002's Big Swing Face. Nor could they have been prepared for this -- a record that is heavy on post-electronica beats, filled with drum loops, Pro Tools editing, and dense arrangements. It's not just that the music sounds different: Hornsby himself sings differently. For the first two tracks, it feels like somebody else is singing, so different is the phrasing and timbre of his performance. Though that shock begins to wear off a few tracks into the record, Big Swing Face never stops feeling utterly alien to anybody expecting a typical Bruce Hornsby record, whether it would be the Hornsby of The Way It Is or of Spirit Trail. Which is not to say that it's a bad record, because it's not -- it's very accomplished on its own terms, it succeeds more than the '90s albums where he seemed to drift into new age and, beneath all the busy surface, it boasts the tightest songs he's written in many a moon. It's hard to say who will hear this album -- it's too much of a departure for many of his fans, and it's unlikely to win him new listeners -- but it's some kind of an accomplishment all the same, one of the strangest records of 2002.

Product Details

Release Date:
06/25/2002
Label:
Rca
UPC:
0078636802428
catalogNumber:
68024

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Big Swing Face 3 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 1 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
It must be awful being a recording artist. Turn out three collections of the same thing and folks start saying that's all you can do and all of your music sounds the same. But, if you mix it up a little, experimenting with different styles and playing with different musicians, you can lose your audience faster than you can say ''Linda Ronstadt''. With ''Big Swing Face'', Bruce leaves appalachia and The Range behind, traveling farther down the road he was on for Harbor Lights and Spirit Trail, which seemed like such a departure at the time. If you love Bruce, you'll love Big Swing Face. But if you loved ''The Way It Is'' and ''Scenes from the Southside'' you will wonder if this is the same guy. It isn't.