Saturday, July 21, 2018

Songs of '78: "Take Me To the River"

There is some confusion on when, exactly, the Talking Heads's cover of Al Green's "Take Me to the River" was released. It was the only single released off their second album, More Songs About Buildings and Food, and Wikipedia can't agree on when that album officially hit: either July 14, 1978, or July 21, 1978, forty years ago today. And was the single released before the album was, or along with it, or long after? Since the song didn't hit its peak on the pop charts until 1979, it might have been the latter. But lacking any better information, and given that me memories of 1978, dim as they are, claim this song for this year, I'm just going to go with the latter date and call it good.

It's such a wonderful recording of such a wonderful song--Talking Heads (and Brian Eno!) gave it their patented spare yet funky, post-punk, not-quite-techno treatment, without losing the elemental piety and sensuality of the Al Green original. That, actually, is the reason why I think "Take Me to the River" is the only song played during their famed concert film, Stop Making Sense, that isn't an improvement; the concert version is such a wild, art-house rave that the slow-burning, soulful element of the song is lost. See the movie, of course--but for this song, stick to what hit the airwaves, four decades ago.

1 comment:

Unknown said...

Excellent instrumentals. Vocals can't compare with Al Green's intensity, but then punk rock has this ironic distance thing going on instead . . .