Friday, Aug. 20, 2004 | 8:45 a.m.
It hardly seems possible that two decades after the introduction of the compact disc, essential albums remain unavailable on the ubiquitous format.
Yet for years, Talking Heads fans hoping to hear the band's best official live recording had but one choice: hunt down the long-out-of-print vinyl.
I found my copy of "The Name of This Band is Talking Heads" -- a double-LP set originally issued in 1982 -- in a used record bin about six years ago.
Until then, I was completely unaware of its existence, believing 1984's "Stop Making Sense" to be the quartet's only concert document.
Fortunately, Rhino Records has at long last plugged the major hole in the Talking Heads' catalog. On Tuesday the archival label reissued "The Name of This Band ..." as a two-CD set.
Although the wait was maddening, it ended with a major payoff: 15 bonus tracks that nearly double the playing time of the original album. Three of the extra cuts come from an ultra-rare, promo-only EP; the rest were previously unavailable.
"The Name of This Band ..." chronicles the Talking Heads' transition from arty punks to MTV hitmakers, covering the years 1977-1981.
Disc 1 covers the early material, songs highlighted by David Byrne's jittery vocals and unconventional lyrics.
"I guess it's healthy / I guess the air is clean / I guess those people have fun with their neighbors and friends," Byrne prattles off during "The Big Country," describing a seemingly idyllic town outside the window of his airplane.
Then suddenly, in classic Byrne fashion, the song takes an unexpected turn: "I wouldn't live there if you paid me / I wouldn't live like that, no siree / I wouldn't do those things the way those people do / I wouldn't live there if you paid me to!"
The scene shifts dramatically on Disc 2, as Byrne, guitarist/keyboardist Jerry Harrison, bassist Tina Weymouth and drummer Chris Frantz are joined by six touring musicians for larger-scale productions in 1980 and '81.
That expanded lineup turns in one magical rendition after another, steaming up percussive cuts from first-rate Heads' studio discs "Fear of Music" and "Remain in Light."
For the uninitiated, "The Name of This Band ..." works far better than any Best-of Talking Heads collection on the market. For longtime fans, it comes as a welcome treat after an inexplicably extended holdout.
Artist: Talking Heads.
Title: "The Name of This Band is Talking Heads."
Year of release: 1982 (reissued Rhino Records, 2004).
Tracklisting: (Disc 1) "New Feeling," "A Clean Break (Let's Work)," "Don't Worry About the Government," "Pulled Up," "Psycho Killer," "Who Is It?," "The Book I Read," "The Big Country," "I'm Not in Love," "The Girls Want to Be With the Girls," "Electricity (Drugs)," "Found a Job," "Mind," "Artists Only," "Stay Hungry," "Air," "Love -- Building on Fire," "Memories (Can't Wait)," "Heaven." (Disc 2) "Psycho Killer," "Warning Sign," "Stay Hungry," "Cities," "I Zimbra," "Drugs (Electricity)," "Once in a Lifetime," "Animals," "Houses in Motion," "Born Under Punches (The Heat Goes On)," "Crosseyed and Painless," "Life During Wartime," "Take Me to the River," "The Great Curve."