SIMPLE MINDS – ” Sparkle In The Rain ” BOX SET

Posted: March 22, 2015 in ALBUMS, MUSIC
Tags: , , , , ,

Released this week, watch our unboxing of the new ‘Sparkle In The Rain’ box set (Super Deluxe Edition) from Simple Minds. “Sparkle in the Rain” is the sixth studio album released by Simple Minds,  originally on 6th February 1984. A breakthrough commercial success for the band, the record peaked at number one in the UK Albums Chart on 18th February 1984, and reached the top 20 in numerous other countries around the world, including New Zealand, Netherlands, Sweden, Canada,Switzerland, Germany,Norway, and Australia. Receiving mostly positive reviews in the United Kingdom and the United States, Sparkle in the Rain was ultimately certified double platinum in the UK by the British Phonographic Industry, and significantly increased media interest in the band.

Signs of a possible change to a musical direction into a more stadium-oriented sound first became apparent during a series of live performances in the summer months of 1983 by Simple Minds to huge European crowds. Lead singer Jim Kerr returned to a natural, style, as “whatever they would have to say would be in the music. “Those gigs brought us back to the rawest kind of state, I think,” Kerr said. “In places like that, 50,000 people, there’s just no room for subtlety,  This saw the band coming into direct contact with U2 for the first time at the Belgian rock festival Torhout-Werchter; upon meeting the two bands immediately developed a strong liking for each other. Jim Kerr remarked, “we saw a lot of ourselves in them and vice versa,” and refuted the accusation that Simple Minds were merely joining the “new rock” led by U2. We get this thing levelled at us of being influenced by them, but they’re equally influenced by us. It might be in a much subtler sense, in dynamics or some of the sounds.

A new song, Waterfront, was performed by the band when selected as “special guests” of headline acts U2 at Dublin‘s Phoenix Park in August 1983. “The song’s throbbing pulse and enormous sense of space suggested the way the band were thinking,” Adam Sweeting commented, “the elaborate, almost ornate arrangements of New Gold Dream (81/82/83/84) were receding into the distance. Simple Minds were making bigger music for bigger occasions. Shortly afterwards, the band were looking for a producer for their forthcoming sixth album; initially Alex Sadkin, of the Compass Point All Stars, was sought after due to his work with Grace Jones, but his schedule was incompatible with that of Simple Minds.  Steve Lillywhite however, had wanted to produce for the band for a long time, and ultimately Simple Minds completed a three-way Celtic grouping along with U2’s War and Big Country‘s The Crossing under Lillywhite

In September 1983, Simple Minds travelled to Monnow Valley Studio in Rockfield, near Monmouth in Wales, for three weeks to work on some new material; Steve Lillywhite accompanied them for the last two weeks to meet the musicians and suggest some modifications to their music. This material consisted of around six tracks developed during a session the band had spent at a recording studio called The Chapel in Lincolnshire in January, and other initial samples recorded in London‘s Nomis Studios before their performance at Phoenix Park. At Rockfield, most of the tracks were dramatically changed, as they had begun as demos consisting only of work by Mick MacNeil and Charlie Burchill, with some drum and bass machine sounds overlapping. With drummer Mel Gaynor now having fully integrated himself into the band, the songwriting was beginning to be influenced consistently from all group members.

The group relocated to Townhouse Studios in London by October, by which time their updated material retained “only a bassline or keyboard melody from the original four-track demo”. As a producer, Lillywhite differed from Peter Walsh on the previous album by going with “the feel of the moment” rather than following “any preconceptions about he wanted the album to turn out”. He tried to emphasize musical unity between the band members; for instance, he pressed Jim Kerr to write lyrics for songs as soon as he could, such that his vocal melodies were influenced by the instrumentation. “On their earlier records, everyone’s parts didn’t really bear much resemblance to everyone else’s,” discussed Lillywhite. “Mick would be fiddling away like this, Charlie would be going like this, then Jim would come in and sing something completely different to what the other two were doing. Whereas I now think Jim is taking some of the melodies from the guitar and the keyboards, which he didn’t use to, which makes it more like a song. Burchill likened Lillywhite’s producing style and manner to that of the film director Werner HerzogGenerally starting studio work at eleven o’clock in the morning, the band found the recording process repetitive, as each track was meticulously refined and sharpened through multiple iterations. With this leading to the group becoming tense and distracted, Lillywhite occasionally asked the band members to vacate the studio while he worked on mixing. The album’s working title was Quiet Night of the White Hot Day, which eventually survived as a lyric in the complete album’s seventh track “White Hot Day”. The recording process drew to a completion with Lillywhite and the band adding some finishing touches to Up on the Catwalk“; Jim Kerr sang some additional lines that had been stored in his notebook instead of name-dropping some extra famous people towards the song’s end. Minor imperfections in phasing and pitch were then corrected to complete the album.

Sparkle in the Rain is a generally rock-oriented album, a departure from the new wave aesthetic of its critically acclaimed predecessor New Gold Dream (81/82/83/84).  Jim Kerr, before its release, described the forthcoming Sparkle in the Rain as an “art record . without tears with masses of muscle”. The band’s new drummer Mel Gaynor, who had contributed for some tracks on the previous record, agreed on the album’s aggressiveness: “On this album I’m getting a few of my ideas across, not only in the drumming field but in other fields as well. It’s a lot different from New Gold Dream, both sound-wise and material-wise. The last one was very smooth, very polished. This album’s got a bit more dirt in it.” Regarding the role of producer Steve Lillywhite, Brian Hogg wrote that Sparkle in the Rain “captured the bravura of their in-concert sound” and Lillywhite “introduced a dynamic, often contrasting, perspective quite unlike the panoramic standpoint of its predecessor, but there was no denying the resultant brash excitement.”The recording process of “Up on the Catwalk”, “Forbes and Gaynor had combined to create a steamrolling rhythm track which came hammering out of the opening chorus like a runaway train.

The album’s musical style thus: “Synth-beats throb over Charlie Burchill’s new wave third-chord guitars and swooning basslines…Piano vibes are pinch-hitting and Kerr’s songwriting thrives on celebrity and the falling grace that coincides that.” The overall effect of the instrumentation is a “densely packed juggernaut of an LP”, the “big, spacey feel” of “Waterfront” and Other slower tracks include the instrumental “Shake Off the Ghosts” and the “pensive” “‘C’ Moon Cry Like a Baby”, while the punk-revivalist “The Kick Inside of Me”, “straining vocal and stinging guitar” of “Speed Your Love to Me“, and “pounding percussion and keyboards” of “Up on the Catwalk” and “Book of Brilliant Things” emphasize the album’s more intense sound. the guitar now having won the battle of dominant instrument.

Due to a desire to release the album worldwide simultaneously, Simple Minds decided not to put the record out for sale before Christmas 1983, releasing Sparkle in the Rain on 6th February 1984. The first UK pressing was issued on white vinyl;  Sparkle in the Rain produced three UK Top 40 singles. The first was “Waterfront”,  It remains one of the band’s signature songs to this day. The album was also preceded by the release of “Speed Your Love to Me”  and  “Up on the Catwalk” .

Virgin Records reissued Sparkle in the Rain as a remastered edition on 21st October 2002; this edition features improved sound quality and faithfully reproduced artwork and packaging from the original record. Around 2006, a set of eight demos for the album from 1983 were leaked to the internet. The drumming for “Speed Your Love To Me” is less dramatic, while “Book of Brilliant Things” is driven by a much stronger bass line than the album version. “White Hot Day” is at a slower tempo, and “Shake Off the Ghosts” sounds more related to the instrumental B-side “Brass Band in Africa” at this stage.

On 16th March 2015, a new 4CD/DVD deluxe remastered boxset of Sparkle In the Rain is to be released, containing B-sides and remixes on Disc 2, and live performances and radio sessions on Disc 3 and 4. The DVD will contain a 5.1 DTS Surround Sound Mix of the album, a 5.1 Dolby Surround Sound mix, and a stereo mix, as well as the promotional videos for the singles and various live performances. The album was remastered in 2014 at Abbey Road Studios by Steve Wilson.

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