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Grown Backwards

Grown Backwards

by David Byrne
Even by his own mercurial standards, David Byrne's latest outing is something of a head-spinner, what with the variety of styles and offbeat collaborations that pack its grooves. Byrne has often turned to realms outside rock for inspiration, and here he connects solidly with his first foray into opera (dueting with Rufus Wainwright on


Even by his own mercurial standards, David Byrne's latest outing is something of a head-spinner, what with the variety of styles and offbeat collaborations that pack its grooves. Byrne has often turned to realms outside rock for inspiration, and here he connects solidly with his first foray into opera (dueting with Rufus Wainwright on "Au Fond du Temple Saint," culled from Bizet's The Pearl Fishers) as well as a crack at avant-jazz (the brassy, politically charged "Empire," which features the Carla Bley Big Band). As is his wont, Byrne digs deep into rhythmic grooves on several of Grown Backwards's 15 cuts, reaching critical mass on the herky-jerky funk-fest "Dialog Box," on which he casts a jaundiced eye on technological overdependence. He's not shy about using modern methods, as evidenced by the chattering loops that pop up here and there on the disc, but most of the atmospherics come from the organic accompaniment of Austin's Tosca Strings, a chamber ensemble that adds moody touches to several songs, including "Tiny Apocalypse" and "Glass, Concrete and Stone." And, like any good godfather, Byrne gives a nod to his art-pop offspring, covering Lambchop's "The Man Who Loved Beer" with warmth and wit to spare. Growth? You bet -- but not a backward-looking moment in sight.

Editorial Reviews

All Music Guide - James Christopher Monger
David Byrne, like fellow New York transplant David Bowie, has reached a well-deserved apex in his career. After eight post-Talking Heads solo outings, the eccentric composer, songwriter, artist, and world music entrepreneur has transcended the inconsistencies of his previous efforts and created a genuinely moving and wickedly fun record. Like Bowie's Heathen and Reality, Grown Backwards is a mature work by an icon who has come to terms with his past, present, and future, and there's a joy in the simple act of creativity here that gives even the heaviest of subject matter an effervescent charm. Opening with "Glass, Concrete, and Stone," Byrne finds the perfect middle ground between his orchestral epic The Forest and the South American-inspired Rei Momo -- in fact, it's the latter that informs many of Backwards' arrangements. Texas-based chamber group the Tosca Strings feature on nearly every track, giving the more experimental cuts a much needed fluidity, especially on the arias "Un Di Felice, Eterea," from Verdi's La Traviata, and "Au Fond du Temple Saint," a duet from Bizet's The Pearl Fishers. It's no great surprise that the shape-shifting Byrne has chosen opera as his latest foray, but what is surprising is that it works. The Bizet duet in particular, featuring Rufus Wainwright, is lent an emotional resonance by the juxtaposition of the pair's wildly different vocal styles -- when they finally meet in harmony it's like two Central Park bums behind Tavern on the Green, clinking their 40-ounce bottles and weeping into a dumpster beneath a sea of summer stars. The wonderfully acerbic "Empire," with its refrain of "The weak among us perish," is Byrne at his political best, emphasizing the "play" in wordplay like a sinister Paul Simon. While by no means a protest record, it bristles with liberal wit and social commentary, especially on the Broadway-style "The Other Side of This Life," a hilarious and scathing jab at the entertainment empires and their minions. "Tiny Apocalypse" finds Byrne at his surreal best, nearly rapping the lyrics "A three-tone carpet and a Jackie Chan spear/lookin' at a hairdo and a bellyful of beer/well, I ain't no poet, ain't got no rhyme/but I got me a car and I know how to drive" over an easy Tropicalia groove. As with many of the prolific artist's releases, the record could be trimmed by five or six songs, but fans have grown accustomed to these aberrations -- which are still of higher quality that many in the industry -- and are willing to either let them go or let them grow. While by no means perfect, Grown Backwards is the colorful, multiethnic sound of a New York City enthralled with itself, and like a select few of the Big Apple's denizens, Byrne is a perfect conduit for its love.
Entertainment Weekly - Marc Weingarten
Byrne's affectless tenor is a perfect match for the delicate bob-and-weave grooves on this CD. (B+)

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Album Credits

Performance Credits

David Byrne   Primary Artist,Acoustic Guitar,Dobro,Electric Guitar,Keyboards,Vocals,fender rhodes,Guitar (Nylon String)
Ray Anderson   Trombone
Vincent Herring   Alto Saxophone
Karen Mantler   Organ
John Patitucci   Bass
Lew Soloff   Trumpet
Bob Stewart   Tuba
Steve Swallow   Bass
Gary Smulyan   Baritone Saxophone
Alex Foster   Tenor Saxophone
Stephen Barber   Prepared Piano
Jon Blondell   Trombone
Georgia Boyd   Viola
Patrick Dillett   Background Vocals
Paul Frazier   Bass
Earl Gardner   Trumpet
Greg Lawson   Violin
John Linnell   Accordion
Phillip Myers   French Horn
Keith O'Quinn   Trombone
Sandra Park   Violin
John Quinn   Drums
Bobby Routch   French Horn,Soloist
Shelley Woodworth   English Horn,Oboe
Freddie Mendoza   Trombone,Euphonium
Jane Scarpantoni   Cello
Fiona Stephen   Violin
Kenny Wollesen   Drums
Elaine Barber   Harp
Rufus Wainwright   Vocals
Ross Godfrey   Keyboards
Robert Irvine   Cello
Mauro Refosco   Percussion,Marimbas,Sampling
Jon Vercesi   fender rhodes
Alan Ford   Vacuum Cleaner
Andy Waterworth   Bass
Joe Cooper   Percussion
Lise Aferiat   Violin
Tracy Seeger   Violin
Sharon Yamada   Violin
Barry Burns   Synthesizer Guitar,fender rhodes
John H.R. Mills   Clarinet,Flute,Bass Clarinet,Baritone Saxophone
Ames Asbell   Viola
Sara Nelson   Cello
Steve "Syco Steve" Williams   Percussion,Drums,cowbell
John Spurney   Keyboards
Pamelia Kurstin   Theremin
David Hilliard   Hi Hat
Leigh Mahoney   Violin
Dawn Hannay   Viola
Donald Gillian   Cello
Jamie Desautels   Violin
Douglas Harvey   Cello
Tom Burritt   Marimbas,Timpani
David Creswell   Viola
Katherine Fong   Violin
Mike Maddox   Accordion
McGlone   Bass
Mark Nuccio   Clarinet
Alan Stepansky   Cello
Jeremy Turner   Cello
Soohyun Kwon   Violin

Technical Credits

Georges Bizet   Composer
Giuseppe Verdi   Composer
David Byrne   Composer,Programming,Producer,drum programming,Drawing
Carla Bley   Arranger
Stephen Barber   Arranger,Horn Arrangements
Patrick Dillett   Producer,Engineer
Kevin Killen   Engineer
Tom Mark   Engineer
Peter Norris   Engineer
X-Press 2   Composer
Kurt Wagner   Composer
Michael Wilson   Cover Photo
Tony Finno   Arranger
Mauro Refosco   Sound Effects
Tony Doogan   Engineer
John H.R. Mills   Horn Arrangements
Steve "Syco Steve" Williams   Drum Triggers

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