Big Swing Face – Bruce Hornsby
RCA Records 7863680242
Bruce Hornsby – with major encouragement from his label's A&R man (who
turned into this album's producer), has thrown a firecracker in a crowded
restroom toilet – has produced the black sheep to go along with the herd of
left his fans… you probably get the picture by now. Big Swing Face
nothing like the Bruce of the past. Think of all the years that Hornsby
practiced the piano to bring his chops to a new level and then pretend that
the last thing he wanted to do was get near ivory keys of black and white.
Granted, his instruments of choice here are electric piano and other
That's my initial reaction to Big Swing Face. I recognize the voice
what's behind it is unfamiliar and strange, like an old friend you used to
hang out with at clubs and concerts showing up years later as a chino and
golf shirt-wearing, SUV-driving balding father of two.
His seventh studio release is a playful clatter of electronic sounds that
form a rhythmic foundation rather than the familiar one of smooth melodies
and fluid piano runs. Hornsby acknowledges such reservations with the track
"Try Anything Once". For those who've become accustomed and interested in
ability to make piano-based music as significant to rock as it is to jazz as
it is to jam, this won't satisfy unless they take on a similar attitude as
its creator. For Hornsby, the all-around approach, musically and lyrically,
Big Swing Face is to have some fun. And he does this with boundless
I have enough respect for Hornsby to allow his desire to travel along
new musical waterways to give the work a chance. Because, to be honest, one
pass over Big Swing Face just isn't going to make it. That's a fact
listen to the disc a second and third time. By that point, the melodies are
clearer and my mind focuses on them rather than the technological gadgetry.
"Sticks and Stones" and "Cartoons & Candy" become more enjoyable in their
of styles and "Take Out the Trash" even gets added propulsion due to its
groove, while "The Chill" – one of several numbers to feature Steve Kimock
on guitar – embodies the familiarity of classic Bruce.
Unfortunately, the drum loops get in the way on what could have been a
majestic number ("This Too Shall Pass"), and there are moments near the
album's end when the elements do not totally coalesce.
While I gradually became accustomed to and eventually enjoyed this new
attitude and approach, my heart still longed for a more striking presence by
the human element rather than an unbalanced mix of man and machine. At the
very least, the emphasis on creating something that is firmly entrenched in
2002 production style makes me wish for a deconstructed version of "Big
Face". Think about it Bruce, it'll be your version of a remix record.