On his Nonesuch debut, “David Byrne spins the world’s harsh realities into a whimsical landscape seeded with sarcastic truth, sentimental metaphor, and surreal fantasy” (Chicago Tribune). Grown Backwards features 11 new Byrne songs plus two older pop songs: arias by Verdi and Bizet, the latter a duet with Rufus Wainwright. The new digital and vinyl editions, released on the album's 15th anniversary, includes six additional tracks.
David Byrne's Nonesuch Records debut album, Grown Backwards, first released on March 16, 2004, made its vinyl debut almost fifteen years later, on March 15, 2019. The vinyl edition comprises the original album plus six additional tracks, including a duet with Caetano Veloso on their song "Dreamworld." The double LP was mastered for vinyl by Greg Calbi at Sterling Sound and pressed on 140g vinyl at Record Industry in the Netherlands and comes in a metallic sleeve. A deluxe digital edition of the album, with the six bonus tracks, is also available.
"It fits alongside the best of his career and adds another solid release to a solo catalog which will hopefully become more cherished in time," said Pitchfork in its review in 2004. "In 20 years, as we straighten our faces with botulism, braces, and stem cells, the album will stand up."
Mojo gave Grown Backwards four stars, finding that "some of Byrne's most deliciously quirky lyrics ensure an event-packed listen." The Guardian called the album "one of Byrne's most rewarding experiments yet. These are wonderful exercises in songcraft." Uncut named it among the Albums of the Year.
David Byrne took a different approach to writing Grown Backwards—perhaps the most personal and emotionally expressive album of his storied career—than he had previously used. He worked from the "top down," humming melodies into a micro-cassette recorder and later unscrambling them to create songs—a significant change from his usual practice of starting with improvised textures and grooves and later adding tunes. The result is a richly melodic set of songs that feature strings, rhythm section, and guitar. In addition to the eleven songs by Byrne, the original album includes two opera arias ("Un di Felice" from Verdi's La traviata, and "Au Fond Du Temple Saint" from Bizet's The Pearl Fishers, which features a duet with Rufus Wainwright); Byrne's cover of the Lambchop song "The Man Who Loved Beer;" and the bonus track "Lazy," Byrne and X-Press 2's 2002 hit song re-arranged by Stephen Barber based on arrangements by Dan Foster, Steven Hussey, and Anu Pillai for Freeform Five.
In describing some of the additional tracks, Byrne says: "'Ausencia' is my version of an arrangement of this beautiful Cape Verdean song that was originally done by the Bosnian composer Goran Bregović for Cesária Évora. The title means 'absence,' and the lyrics are in Portuguese and Creole." And in the song "Show and Tell," he explains: "Cherry Hill is across the river from Philadelphia … a very funky part of town."
"'Dreamworld' was a collaboration with Caetano Veloso for a compilation album, Red Hot + Lisbon, created by Red Hot Organization, a not-for-profit dedicated to fighting HIV/AIDS," he continues. "I began writing with a club girl in mind, like those I would have seen out and about in New York, and Caetano mirrored that with lyrics that referred to Carmen Miranda, the great singer and performer—later caricatured in Hollywood—who was actually Portuguese. Marco de Canaveses, referenced in the song, was the town she was born in."
Arranged by Stephen Barber, Grown Backwards was produced by David Byrne and Patrick Dillett and features longtime collaborator Mauro Refosco on percussion and mallet instruments, Paul Frazier (Chic, Imani Coppola) on bass, and the Tosca Strings from Austin, Texas. Additionally, Carla Bley's jazz band plays on the song "Empire."
David Byrne's latest album, American Utopia, was released on Nonesuch and Todomundo Records in 2018 and was nominated for a Grammy Award for Best Alternative Album; a follow-up EP, "…The Best Live Show of All Time" —NME, was released in December and contains six live tracks from the acclaimed American Utopia tour.
Produced by David Byrne and Patrick Dillett
Recorded and mixed by Patrick Dillett at Kampo Studios, NYC
Strings recorded at Tequila Mockingbird, Austin, TX
Track 1 recorded & mixed by Mark Saunders at Loveshack Studio, NYC
Track 2 basic tracks recorded at Avatar, NYC, Strings & horns recorded at: Tequila Mockingbird, Austin, TX
Track 3 recorded at Tequila Mockingbird, Austin, TX
Track 4 recorded by Tom Mark at RPM Studio, NYC, arrangement by Carla Bley
Track 5 recorded by Tony Doogan at CaVa Sound Workshops, Glasgow,
additional recording at Kampo, NYC
Track 6 engineered by Pete Norris, recorded at Cheeba Central, London, mixed by Mark Saunders at Room with a View, NYC, produced by Morcheeba Productions and David Byrne, mastered by Greg Calbi at Sterling Sound
Track 7 horn arrangement by Stephen Barber & John Mills, recorded at Avatar, NYC & Kampo, NYC, horns recorded at Congress House Studio, Austin, TX, arrangements by Stephen Barber
Track 8 basic tracks recorded at Avatar, NYC, string overdubs recorded at Tequila Mockingbird, Austin, TX
Track 9 drums recorded at Skyline, NYC
Track 10 drums recorded at Skyline, NYC, horns recorded at Congress House Studio, Austin, TX
Track 11 drums recorded at Skyline, NYC
Track 13 horns recorded at Congress House Studio, Austin, TX
Track 14 arranged by Anthony Finno, recorded and mixed by Kevin Killen at Sound on Sound, NYC
Track 15 arrangement by Stephen Barber based on arrangements by Dan Foster, Steven Hussey and Anu Pillai for Freeform Five
Album coordination: Kara Finlay and Jess Frost
Rufus Wainwright appears courtesy of Dreamworks Records
All songs written by David Byrne, except track 2 by Donald Charles Book and Kurt Wagner; track 3 by Georges Bizet, from Les Pêcheurs de Perles; track 14 by Giuseppe Verdi, from La Traviata; track 15 by David Byrne and X-Press 2.
Design: Danielle Spencer & David Byrne
Cover photos by Michael Wilson
David Byrne, vocals (1-15), electric guitar (2, 6, 7, 9, 12, 15), acoustic guitar (10, 11), nylon-string guitar (1, 13), semi-nylon guitar (8), dobro (4), Rhodes (5), programming (9), keyboards, drum programming (15)
Mauro Refrosco, percussion (1, 2, 7-13, 15), marimba (1), samples (8), kitchen implements (8)
Jane Scarpatoni, cello (1)
David Hilliard, high hat (1)
Paul Frazier, bass (2, 7-13, 15)
The Tosca Strings: Leigh Mahoney, violin; Tracy Seeger, violin; Jamie Desautels, violin; Ames Asbell, viola; Sara Nelson, cello; Douglas Harvey, cello (2, 3, 8-10, 13, 15)
John Mills, clarinet (2, 3, 13), bass clarinet (2, 3, 13), flute (2, 3), baritone saxophone (7, 10)
Freddie Mendoza, trombone (2, 3), euphonium (2, 3)
Mike Maddox, accordion (2, 3)
Elaine Barber, harp (2, 3, 8)
Rufus Wainwright, vocals (3)
Pamelia Kurstin, theremin (3, 12)
Stephen Barber, prepared piano (3)
Tom Burritt, marimba, timpani (3)
Karen Mantler, organ; Steve Swallow, bass; Vincent Herring, alto saxophone; Alex Foster, tenor saxophone; Gary Smulyan, bartone saxophone; Earl Gardner, trumpet; Lew Soloff, trumpet; Ray Anderson, trombone; Keith O’Quinn, trombone; Bob Routch, French horn; Bob Stewart, tuba (4)
Barry Burns, spacey guitar; Lisa Aferiat, violin; Greg Lawson, violin; Fiona Stephen, violin; Georgia Boyd, viola; David Gillian, cello; Robert Irvine, cello; Una McGlone, bass; Johnny Quinn, drums; Patrick Dillett, Rhodes (5)
Andy Waterworth, bass; Ross Godfrey, keyboards; Joe Cooper, percussion; Paul Godfrey, sequencing (6)
John Blondell, trombone (7, 10, 13)
Steve Williams, drums (7, 8), percussion (12), cowbell (8), drum triggers (15), spaghetti percussion (13)
John Spurney, keyboards (9)
Kenny Wollesen, drums (9-11), slit drum (11)
Alan Ford, vacuum cleaner (11)
John Linnell, accordion (11)
Jon Vercesi, Rhodes; Sandra Park, violin; Sharon Yamada, violin; Soo Hyun Kwon, violin; Katherine Fong, violin; Dawn Hannay, viola; David Creswell, viola; Alan Stepansky, cello; Jeremy Turner, cello; Shelly Woodworth, oboe, English horn; Mark Nuccio, clarinet; Philip Myers, French horn; John Patitucci, bass (14)
Patrick Dillett, background vocals (15)