Big Swing Face

Si Twining

It’s fair to say that Bruce Hornsby’s Big Swing Face caused the biggest stir amongst fans. Opinion was greatly divided, such was the departure from anything Bruce had ever put out before. Take a look at what you were saying about it in 2002! Some while after it’s release, then, it’s time to revisit this record. Here are some of the details first:

Bruce Hornsby Big Swing Face
Big Swing Face

June 25 2002

  1. “Sticks & Stones”
  2. “Cartoons & Candy”
  3. “The Chill”
  4. “Big Swing Face”
  5. “This Too Shall Pass”
  6. “Try Anything Once”
  7. “Take Out the Trash”
  8. “The Good Life”
  9. “So Out”
  10. “No Home Training”
  11. “Place Under the Sun”

Here’s what it sounds like:

Music player:

The record’s title comes from a relatively obscure 1963 album by legendary drummer Buddy Rich. It seems, however, that the inspiration might not have come from Rich’s’ great skill as a musician but rather the infamous “Buddy Rich Tapes” on which Rich is caught on tape ripping his band up one side and down the other after a less than stellar performance. These tapes are legendary amongst musicians. (Thanks to Nick Lung for that).


Keyboard Magazine: A Bruce Hornsby CD with no piano on it? Next, fish will wear trousers. Not to worry, though: Hornsby’s songwriting (social conscience, fresh changes, moving hooks) is as incisive as ever, and even without acoustic piano, Big Swing Face serves up plenty of top-notch keyboard playing. Electric piano and organ are woven through the fabric of the mixes, along with some percolating filter work on synths and even a few drums that sound like loops. Hornsby has always been willing to take chances; jettisoning his primary instrument (temporarily, I hope) is not a sign of confusion but a way of exploring some of the other colors in the paintbox.

When he stretches out with a distorted, ballsy EP solo in “Cartoons & Candy”, it’s a prelude to a vocal break that veers straight over into Prince territory. But whether he’s laying down an R&B groove or playing with New Orleans funk, as in the second-line groove of the title track, it’s all pure Hornsby.

Your scores

At the time of running this poll, Bruce Hornsby’s Big Swing Face is 16 years old. A high proportion of these songs are still in rotation at live shows, and probably the most played ones scored highest here (The Good Life, Sticks and Stones, Place Under the Sun and to a lesser extent, This Too Shall Pass). All aspects of the record (longevity, lyrics, artwork, musicality, production and collaborations) scored the lowest so far.

Big Swing Face - the breakdown

Sticks and Stones - 73.8%
Cartoons and Candy - 64.4%
The Chill - 65%
Big Swing Face - 62.2%
This Too Shall Pass - 77.7%
Try Anything Once - 60.5%
Take Out the Trash - 63.3%
The Good Life - 80.5%
So Out - 56.1%
No Home Training - 48.3%
Place Under the Sun - 73.8%
LYRICS - 67.2%



Despite a couple of high scoring tracks, this release does not compare favourably.