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on 25 January 2009
I have loved Sparks since the early 70s, but they sort of drifted out of my conciousness somewhere after No.1 in Heaven, until Lil' Beethoven. Having got that, and subsequently the INCREDIBLE Hello Young Lovers (flawless) and the superb Exotic Creatures.... I went in search of those Sparks albums from my "lost years" to see what I could find.
This... THIS album is just stunningly good! I've half a mind to say I actually prefer it to anything else they've done. Better than Propaganda or Hello Young Lovers? Yes, probably.
First listen through I thought... hmmm.... this is quite good. By the third I was addicted. Highlights? Most of it. Frankly Scarlett.... Hear no Evil... I thought I told you.... and When I kiss you.... This is just musical bliss. A GREAT CD for driving in the car.
Ok, so this hasn't been a very coherent review. Sorry. But what I'm trying to express is, if like me you had missed out on this gem, but have liked any of Sparks more recent stuff (or if you are a Pet Shop Boys fan... because you'll LOVE this), then I can recommend this CD. Wholeheartedly. Get it. Fall in love with it.

Warning.... like most Sparks music it will stop you sleeping well.
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on 25 August 2009
Despite being a Sparks fan club member (back in 1975) I have only recently heard this, although I had heard (and bought) the brilliant `...My Way` sigle in 1994. I am no lover of dance music, but this is a fantastic album, there are lots of highlights, no real lowlights. From the Propagandaesque opener, to the amazing `Ghost of Liberace`, Ron and Russ have produced a quality album. `Hear No Evil...` has a bewitchimg, almost oriental melody, you never grow tired of `...Charlie Parker` or `BBC..` with funny, hypnotic tunes. The genesis of Sparks latter albums can be heard on some of the tracks, particularly `I Thought I Told You To Stay In The Car`. Typically brilliant Mael magic.
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on 26 January 2008
Gratuitous Sax and Senseless Violins (GSASV) was the comeback album of Sparks. Released late 1994, the album had a sound that was close to the pet shop boys ('When Do I Get To Sing 'My Way''), light euro-house ('Now That I Own The BBC'), and surprisingly vigorous house. That I've mentioned house twice already is a good marker of the prevailing sound of GSASV.

Sparks had been out of sorts since 1983's 'Sparks in Outer Space'. The three following 80s albums each suffered from production that was behind the pack. In the 70s the group had been sonically ahead of the pack with 'Kimono My House' and later 'No. 1 in Heaven'. Their passe late 80s sound found them struggling, and held back Mael's great songwriting. GSASV doesn't present a reinvention - as many reviewers have been quick to comment - rather, by using the sound of the early 90s they made their style work again. The use of house rhythms on the harder tracks worked in a more satisfying manner than had been attempted on 1986's misfire 'Music That You Can Dance To'. It helped too that the material was funnier than usual. The lengths of the song titles are jokes in themselves; 'I Thought I Told You To Wait In The Car' and 'Frankly, Scarlett, I Don't Give A Damn' revel in their convoluted mockery.

'When Do I Get To Sing 'My Way'' is the obvious standout, and arguably their best single since 1985's 'Change' or perhaps 1981's 'Funny Face'. Its Pet Shop Boys channelled sound and a memorable melody proved potent and returned Sparks to the charts in Germany and the UK. '(When I Kiss You) I Hear Charlie Parker Playing' was released as the follow up, but is a much more unconventional track. Never have the group sounded so relentless. Russell Mael's vocal ranges between rapping (yes really!) and hysterical and high-pitched chorus proclamations.

Two other real triumphs are 'Ghost of Liberace' and 'Lets Go Surfing'. The latter like 'Charlie Parker' keeps the BMPs high, while the former is one of the duo's more reflective songs. It looks at fame and legacy, but in an even more longing manner than 'My Way'. Musically the album sits between two sounds, the first is the pop-house sound of the time. While slower songs are in fact closer to the sound of 'Lil' Beethoven'. 'Frankly, Scarlett, I Don't Give a Damn' seems to be an embryonic version of what would flower so astonishingly in songs like 'I Married Myself'.

GSASV was re-released on Sparks own label (Lil' Beethoven Records) and comes with new liner notes in a digipack sleeve. It is definitely one of Sparks' best albums and sits up with 'Angst in My Pants' and 'No.1 In Heaven'. I would argue that it is their set of songs since 1979's 'Heaven'. The material is more consistent and than any of their albums since that album. GSASV rightfully resurrected Sparks reputation and is really very good.
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on 10 August 2014
This album seems to be the precursor to Sparks recent return to form,ie the post Lil Beethoven era which also includes Hello Young Lovers and Exotic Creatures of the Deep . It is easily as good as those 3 , I like the whole of this album,including the mock expose magazine style sleeve. Any Sparks fan should have this in their collection. Like all good albums ,on the first listen I thought "Hmm...this seems ok",then it just seems to grow and grow !
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on 26 August 2014
By the end of the '80s Sparks were at an all-time artistic and commercial low so the 5 year recording sabbatical that followed Interior Design was no surprise. They finally returned in '93 with the underrated non-album single National Crime Awareness Week which set the scene for the following year's major comeback - Gratuitous Sax And Senseless Violins. Europop and techno (I think, i'm certainly no electronic dance music expert) provide the perfect palette of sounds for Ron Mael's melodies and lyrics much like disco did circa-No. 1 In Heaven. It's glossy, modern, and it sold. Sparks hit the UK charts for the first time in 15 years and were all over the media as if it was 1974 again! The album kicks off with a brief acappella throwback to their 1974 classic Propaganda before launching into the instant classic hit single When Do I Get To Sing 'My Way' - a beautiful rumination on fame, or lack of (much like Interior Design's A Walk Down Memory Lane). My other highlights include the hilarious Now That I Own The BBC, the funny/sad The Ghost Of Liberace and the exhilarating Let's Go Surfing. 20 years on from Kimono My House, the Maels were vital again, and bigger things were yet to come!
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on 9 December 2014
One of their best albums from the late 90's.

Great Production, Fantastic Songs, Hilarious Lyrics.

Very Highly Recommended - a five star must buy.
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on 14 February 2015
A fab album from Sparks featuring the brilliant song When Do I Get To Sing My Way - superb. Also features Now That I Own The BBC, Let's Go Surfing & When I Kiss You I Hear Charlie Parker Playing. Only Sparks could come up with song titles like this. Never off my CD player. Love it!!!
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on 6 January 2011
There are some good tunes on this Sparks CD. Its not as sophisticated as later offerings like 'lil Beethoven' or 'Hello Young Lovers' but its a good one to have in the Sparks collection. 4/5
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on 4 July 2015
Great fun-lyrics and sounds are great. I purchased this after reading other reviews and was delighted that I'd taken their advice.
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on 13 February 2011
Sparks returned in 1994 after a six year break from albums with a sound similar to the Pet Shop Boys and to commercial success; hits in Germany and the UK. Critics and fans raved at the new sound.

Yes indeed there is gloriousness in the songs 'When Do I Get To Sing "My Way"', 'When I Kiss You (I Hear Charlie Parker Playing)' and 'Let's Go Surfing' but the album does represent the other extremity of being dull and lifeless at times. It's a rare occurence that I play the whole album from start to finish as when I get to 'I Thought I Told You To Wait In The Car', 'Hear No Evil, See No Evil, Speak No Evil', and 'Tsui Hark' I'm not really listening anymore but am crying out for more pop!

It's an album that could have been a classic as the tunes and lyrics are there. Sadly a wasted opportunity.
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