Thursday, February 6, 2014

sparkle in the rain

Simple Minds embraced a thunderous live rock sound during the recording of this monumental book of brilliant things.  After the critical and commercial success of  'New Gold Dream', the band found that their performances to huge crowds in large European venues led to a shift in their approach.  

Jim Kerr reveals:   "We went off for six months, toured, came back and wrote these new songs feeling very chuffed and smug. But a week later we found out all we were doing was writing 'New Gold Dream' part two, which was really awful. It was big problem at the beginning of the year. I was drying up, at least everything I wrote seemed to be either the same as 'New Gold Dream' or a parody on it. So we kept touring and touring, and that's why this is the first record this year and why there's been no album, because this mental block came on.  Then in September all these manic songs started coming out that could never have been on 'New Gold Dream'. There's one called 'Kick Inside' which could be a Sex Pistols backing track. And I don't know how we went from 'New Gold Dream' to that, but we have, and we're really up with it. We played this unannounced gig in Glasgow at the weekend and it just sounded so rough and raw, but still with an underlying classiness to it...[Steve Lillywhite] was perfect for the time. He brought out all the energy we normally reserve for interviews or playing live. You can actually hear Charlie's guitar on this record and on a few tracks you can hear the words, I don't know whether that's down to me or the mix. He's got a reputation now having done U2 and Big Country, all due respect to them but I don't think we used him because he'd done them.  To tell the truth we wanted to use Alex Sadkin. We liked the stuff he'd done with Marley and Grace Jones and you could see his face light up when he heard us play. He agreed to do it but then he went off and did Duran Duran, Classix Nouveaux and the Thompson Twins and we thought what's going on here?. It just fell apart.  This is actually the third record we've been in touch with Steve to do, before he'd always been too busy or whatever. The sound he gave us was what we have live. We knew if anybody was able to do that it would be him  ...  There's always been a rawness we've held back on. In the studio, we've always gone for a much more kind of sophisticated sound. On 'Dream' we achieved a certain kind of 'perfection', and now - whether it's just a reflection of the personalities or not - it's more on the edge.  We've all grown a lot; I think you'll see a giant difference in the band since the last tour. There's been a giant improvement - I think we were all a bit larger than life, but now it's just so upfront, pushing and in control."

The working title for the sessions was 'Quiet Night of the White Hot Day'.  Using parts of tracks they developed at The Chapel in Lincolnshire and Monnow Valley Studio in Rockfield, near Monmouth in Wales; the band relocated to Townhouse Studios in London with producer Steve Lillywhite.  'Sparkle in the Rain' features Jim Kerr on lead vocals; Charles Burchill on acoustic & electric guitars, Derek Forbes on bass guitar & vocals, Mel Gaynor on drums & vocals, and Michael MacNeil on keyboards. Female vocals on 'Speed Your Love To Me' & 'Street Hassle' were provided by Kirsty MacColl.  

Forbes says: "We went into Rockfield for a while and really worked the songs out pretty well. But that gives you a bit of an odd outlook on the songs because you're all playing in a hall all at once, which is different from playing in a studio where you tend to put the songs under a microscope and you end up reconstructing everything. I don't know if it was particularly worth it but in another way it does give you a new sort of light to look at the song in while you're writing them."

MacNeil muses: "We did the songs in batches of three. Like we'd do three at the Townhouse then three at The manor and so on. They didn't fall into any sort of categories, it was just a lot more interesting that way because you were dealing with complete songs all the time. When we did 'New Gold Dream' it was like bass and drums and then two months overdubs and then the vocals."

The more commercial sound of 'Sparkle in the Rain' alienated some fans but brought the band even more success, going to sixty-four in the US, nineteen in Switzerland, seventeen in France, fifteen in Australia, two in the Netherlands and Sweden, and number one in New Zealand and the UK.  The album completes a trio of massive 'celtic' albums produced by Lillywhite during that year with 'War'  by U2 and 'The Crossing' by Big Country. 

"Up on the Catwalk"  

"Speed Your Love to Me"  

"Waterfront" was the leadoff single and a number one hit in New Zealand.

"East at Easter"    

"Street Hassle"   Lou Reed

"The Kick Inside of Me"    

"Shake Off the Ghosts"    

'Sparkle in the Rain' 

full album:

All tracks written by Simple Minds except where noted.

Side A
1. "Up on the Catwalk" 4:45
2. "Book of Brilliant Things" 4:21
3. "Speed Your Love to Me" 4:24
4. "Waterfront" 4:49
5. "East at Easter" 3:32
Side B
6. "Street Hassle" (Lou Reed) 5:14
7. "White Hot Day" 4:32
8. "'C' Moon Cry Like a Baby" 4:19
9. "The Kick Inside of Me" 4:48
10. "Shake Off the Ghosts" 3:57

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