Personnel: David Byrne (vocals, acoustic guitar, electric guitar, programming); Rufus Wainwright (vocals); Elaine Barber (harp); Jane Scarpantoni (cello); Vincent Herring (alto saxophone); Alex Foster (tenor saxophone); Lew Soloff (trumpet); Ray Anderson (trombone); Ross Godfrey (keyboards); Steve Swallow (bass instrument); Kenny Wollesen (drums).
Liner Note Author: David Byrne.
Discounting David Byrne's 2003 soundtrack recording LEAD US NOT INTO TEMPTATION, GROWN BACKWARDS can be seen as the third installment in a trilogy that began with 1997's FEELINGS and found the former Talking Head moving away from his world-music obsession towards a kind of eclectic, intellectual chamber-pop. This '04 release is probably the least international-sounding of any of Byrne's solo albums, and while it contains elements of electronica, R&B, jazz, and rock, it's also his most unassuming recording in some time.
Elegant, artful string arrangements grace much of the material, and Byrne's previous polyrhythmic approach is supplanted by a more cerebral, European sensibility. Nowhere is this more apparent than in the inclusion of two honest-to-God opera tracks, Bizet's "Au Fond du Temple Saint" (with assistance from fellow opera buff Rufus Wainwright) and Verdi's "Un de Felice, Eterea." To his credit, Byrne manages to make these works his own, and along with a markedly more politicized lyrical approach on some of his own compositions, they mark the most significant changes to his artistic template.
Entertainment Weekly (3/26/04, p.74) - "Byrne's affectless tenor is a perfect match for the delicate bob-and-weave grooves on this CD..."
Q (4/04, p.107) - 3 stars out of 5 - "[A]rresting in its breadth of content and creativity."
Uncut (4/04, p.96) - 3 stars out of 5 - "[M]ore wide-ranging in a subtler, more subversive manner, taking in Gallic accordion...countrified pedal-steel guitar...and lashings of elegant string arrangements."
CMJ (4/04, p.36) - "Here again, he just yanks in influences from all over the place and pastes them together to create tiny, heartfelt gems, as endearing as they are marvelously catchy."
Mojo (Publisher) (4/04, p.99) - 4 stars out of 5 - "[E]ssayed with the beaming confidence of a 51-year-old artist whose intellect and joie de vivre have achieved a long-overdue synergy."