Customer Reviews: The Catherine Wheel
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4.5 out of 5 stars23
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Showing 1-10 of 17 reviews(5 star). Show all reviews
on November 27, 2004
I bought this cassette back in junior high school when I was truly obsessed with TALKING HEADS - they had just made the brave leap forward with the ENO-helmed REMAIN IN LIGHT, which remains in my TOP 10 of all time albums - but THIS original score for Twyla Tharp's dance production is in many ways even more mind-blowing, ground-breaking, and seminal - here Byrne is given free reign to do his thang and explore the very limits of music, percussion, vocals, and song structure, or lack thereof...truly truly SPELL-BINDING stuff! But here's the rub: my original long OOP cassette version that WB released (BLUE cover, not RED) contains the COMPLETE score, with many tracks/sections NOT found on the sadly abbreviated CD - I guess they couldn't fit all of its BRILLIANCE on one CD, so they chose to edit - now that it's legendary, why not re-issue an expanded, double-CD with the entire score for posterity?! And why not include some of the 12" MIXES of BIG BUSINESS, etc released on 12" only singles at the time?! Trust me, once you buy this and start listening, you will come back to it over & over again - this is over two decades and I still come back to it every few months - WAY AHEAD OF ITS TIME, NEVER GROWS OLD! Sadly, Byrne would never top this...I find all of this later TALKING HEADS (post-Speaking In Tongues) and solo projects dry, brittle, flat, and dull - that tired "world music" white man's burden trap. Oh well. At least we have THIS to cherish.
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on October 9, 2005
Another reviewer called this the "lost Talking Heads album," which I think is accurate and also hints at a faint yearning, among many of Byrne's most ardent fans (of which I am one), to hear more of the sound that got them hooked in the first place. For Byrne, Talking Heads has become an albatross, and he seems resentful of his fans' unwillingness to accept his exploration of other avenues.

Well, okay; fair enough. But Byrne's persona within the context of Talking Heads is arguably one of the most intriguing in rock music, and it's only natural for followers to crave access to more. The Talking Heads catalogue has never been friendly to the completist mentality, as there's not a wealth of unreleased material surfacing -- not even with the recent "Once in a Lifetime" and "Brick" box sets. However, what Byrne seems to be doing with his solo career, or wanting to do, is to demystify himself, and he's tried doing this through a variety of measures: with his "unplugged" stint; with his "personal" work on his self-titled album and recent 'Grown Backwards'; with his down-to-earth collaborations with artists such as Richard Thompson; and with the folksy conversational style he's adopted in his solo concerts. But the overarching impression still is of a man awkwardly inhabiting a physical body within the physical world, and these attempts to convey a reaching of comfort within these two spaces seem largely calculated. Additionally, it remains unclear as to whether the vitality and energy the man once radiated is being suppressed or has simply dissipated.

One thing that hasn't changed about Byrne is that he's still what detractors would call a dilettant or a tourist, and what friendlier followers would call versatile. Objectively, it's fair to say that he's always had his hands in many pies, working in and adopting as many mediums as his talents will allow. One of the most compelling results of this dilettantism/versatility was his collaboration with choreographer Twyla Tharp for the Broadway ballet "The Catherine Wheel." They don't do stuff like this on Broadway anymore. Current Broadway, safe and posh, is to early '80s Broadway what current Hollywood is to 1970s Hollywood, before Michael Cimino killed it for everyone. Listening to "The Catherine Wheel" evokes this and, among many other things, the excitement of a gifted and vital artist (Byrne) in great demand. Byrne dove into this as though it were the important task that it was, taking complete command of his assignment without a shred of unease. "His Wife Refused," "Big Blue Plymouth (Eyes Wide Open), "What a Day That Was," and "Big Business" are practically Talking Heads songs and rank among the best of the Heads' work, while "Ade," "The Red House," "Black Flag," and others, create soundscapes that are at once exotic, exciting, and comforting. This album, next to (and slightly surpassing) 'Rei Momo,' remains Byrne's best and most assured solo album.
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on October 20, 2000
The Catherine Wheel is simply a masterpiece of modern electronic music. Here we find David Byrne, unfettered by the limitations of the pop song format that constrained his work with Talking Heads, stretching his wings as a modern composer. The Catherine Wheel combines the best lessons of Byrne's synth-funk and found-vocal Eno collaborations ("The Red House") with quirky and soaring sound scapes ("Light Bath," "Dinosaur"), verbal ellipses and his trademark (and under appreciated!) rhythmic-lead guitar work. There is no wasted music on this one: every track has something wonderful to offer. Because The Catherine Wheel was written as a dance score, a number of tracks lack the formal structures of pop songs. But these are not gratuitous noodlings nor mere sketches of songs that might have been. Rather, each piece has an integrity and musical interest to it. And, on a larger scale, the layers of rhythm and instrumental texture throughout draw the ear and the mind into a complete and coherent musical vision. The Catherine Wheel reveals one of America's great musical minds in full flower.
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on June 24, 2000
Prepare for a gigantic, 9 course (or so) feast for the soul. There is so much here. Beginning and ending with "Light Bath", Byrne seems to want to take the listener on a journey into, through, and then out of, his soul. Nothing is held back, lyrically or musically. From the eerie to the sublime to the transcendant, this CD succeeds on every level. And the musicianship! Understated, intense guitar work ("Big Blue Plymouth"), awe inspiring sonic treatments throughout (esp. "His Wife Refused", "Eggs in a Briar Patch" & "Big Business"), and tremendous layered rhythm(s) (e.g. "Ade" ). Talking Heads fans: PAY HEED! If you were not aware of this one, joy unto you! Anyone else with a thimblefull of musical imagination will find a treasure trove of musical delights here. Somebody (please) point me in the direction of something comparable on the contemporary music scene.
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on June 13, 2003
If you're mostly into the Taking Heads' more comercial hits then this probably isn't for you but if you lose yourself in the groove of the more obscure instumental diversions on Little Creatures then this is absolutely a must own cd. While there are some odd tracks that don't work so well (to be expected from a 72 min long soundtrack) mostly, this cd is made up of the undiluted good stuff, the raw pure music that comes along all too rarely. I thought about giving this 4 stars because of the low points but considering that you could delete 15 minutes of it and still be left with a long album containing nothing but some of the finest funkiest grooves ever - it has to be 5 stars.
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on August 9, 1998
Next to "Remain in Light", Catherine Wheel represents David Bryne's most comprehensive & cohesive work. This album is made up of approximately 20 songs and most songs blend into the other. Initially a close listening is a "must" (from start to finish). This CD will become a staple in your CD player. The music is perfect background music for work & play. I have had many years of enjoyment and finding it on Amazon is a treat. Orginally the vinyl album was missing some of the songs while the cassette tape contained the full score. This CD is a remaster of the cassette version and the quality of the performance and recording are nothing less than David Bryne's best work.
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on March 11, 2016
II bought this because of David Byrne and the talking Heads back in the 80's when it came out!! The show was shown on public TV and so I was also able to see it as well as be introduced to Twala Tharp!! There is nothing about any part of this that wasn't awakening to more David Byrne Music and the dance by Tharp!!!
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on February 22, 2009
Talking Heads - Art students who decided to make music. The first records were good but not great as you would expect from non musicians. Fairly simple pop music with an artistic edge. But after a few interesting records, around the time of "Remain in Light" with the addition of Eno (Roxy Music, Bowie) on treatments and synths, Bernie Worrell (Parliament/Funkadelic) adding funky keyboard sounds and Adrian Belew (Zappa, King Crimson, Bowie) on guitar noises they were hitting their stride with a peak of near brilliance topped by this one, sort of, unfortunately never to return.

Although this is not technically a Talking Heads recording it sounds like one. OF COURSE... the best Talking Heads recording... isn't a Talking Heads recording. It's both fitting and ironic that the best one is probably the least well known. THIS IS THE BEST ON IMHO.

Very interesting intellectually AND enjoyable on visceral level. It incorporates the latest avant guard aesthetic (at the time) with swinging funk and hard edged rock. Lots of open space, not too cluttered to give the great sounds room to shine. I'm usually not into the fad of found recordings but these incorporated some of the earliest and best.

I agree with the review by G. Mitchell "greggmitch" pretty much except I still have my original cassette which seems to have the same 23 tracks as the CD. I just ordered the CD so I haven't done a detailed comparison but I've compared the track listings and they match.
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On this soundtrack to Twyla Tharp's broadway production all of the communal afro latin-funk style Talking Heads had been developing from the outset came to fruitation. Members of the "expanded heads" Adrien Belew and Bernie Worrell are onboard for these 23 cuts with Brian Eno also present. Together they wove a tapestry of music that is a spectacle to behold for lovers of collective 70's style funk. The music is abstract,emotional,spirtual and innovative. Most of these cuts are under 2 minutes long and generally flow together like one long piece with varriations even if each cut is seperated. And it's all here:the rhythms,the bass,the keyboard flourishes and Adrien's "zoo guitar":all the elements that made Talking Heads albums such as Remain in Light so important. A couple of songs do stand out seperately as amazing funk jams: "Dinasaur" and "Wheezing" stomp and thrust away like nobody's business. Especially for a musician who made his name on the rock scene this is solid proof that David Byrne's devotion to the rhythms and flavors of funk in it's many forms is genuine and strong and that he intended to innovate,and express that innovation to others around him. To my knowledge this was the first time funk music had made it's way onto broadway and the arrangements and production make it perfectly clear that,from the connective thread from latin to jazz (both used as elements in Broadway musicals and dance performances in the past) up to R&B/funk that this really had to happen where it did and when it did. The fact alone that Bernie Worrell is involved in this says a lot. P-Funk's music should've but never did make it to Broadway in it's heyday and if this is the medium that a musician of his caliber and connectedness to his craft than so be it. A truly amazing funk revelation.
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on March 28, 2000
Any fan of Talking Heads will want this CD. It has great herky-jerky rhythms mixed with very evocative and moody ambient tracks. I especially love the early 80's arcade noises on The Red House. A highly atmospheric and funky collection.
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