Thirty years after its release, The Way It Is finally sounds the way it should.
Stripped of its 1980s pop patina and spit-shined with fiddle, mandolin, washboard and spoons, accordion and dulcimer, plus guitar, bass, drums and piano – Bruce Hornsby’s 1986 debut album with the Range has been reimagined and reinvigorated by the Noisemakers.
Drawn from three Noisemakers’ concerts promoting 2016’s “Rehab Reunion,” The Way It Is – Live 2016 is a free download from Brucehornsbylive.com that finds Hornsby and his current band celebrating the 30th anniversary of his breakthrough with his first band.
In addition to the new suit of musical clothes, the nine songs on The Way It Is – Live 2016 also sport altered arrangements.
The once-radio-friendly “Every Little Kiss” is stretched to eight minutes and driven by Hornsby’s dulcimer; the title track is adorned with J.T. Thomas’ macabre organ intro that recalls Deep Purple and a bridge fashioned out of classical piano; “The Long Race” is outfitted with a Ross Holmes fiddle solo; and Hornsby tacks a bit of Paul McCartney’s “That Would Be Something” on to the end of “Mandolin Rain.“
Throughout it all, Jerry Garcia’s tonal doppelgänger, guitarist Gibb Droll, colors with music with tie-dyed, spider-webbed runs.
Back ‘86, The Way It Is, buoyed by Hornsby’s piano playing and lyrics, signaled the arrival of groundbreaking new man on the scene, even if his mastery was shrouded in disagreeable studio gloss. At the end of ‘16, Bruce Hornsby & the Noisemakers succeed in wiping away that dated sheen and, like a successful archeological dig, The Way It Is – Live 2016 exposes the musical glory that’s been hidden all these years.