on 29 February 2012
I can completely understand why a few people are having problems with this reissue.
I admit I hadn't intended to buy it. I was at the gig on Friday, having a few ecstatic tearful moments, and even then I didn't think I'd be getting hold of this. Then I read a couple of reviews that mentioned the audio quality ...
Well, even though I am definitely a fan, I haven't bothered to replace my Simple Minds CD collection for years. Truth is, I've never felt it was worth doing given that no genuine attempt at remastering has taken place.
And I'm pretty certain this release might not wholly address potential sound quality issues, but it is infinitely better than the old discs. Maybe it's just because what amounts to the current bog standard equipment is so much better than it was a few years back. Or maybe someone has actually had a go at sorting out the sound ... anyway, these discs are so much punchier, wider, brighter (but not at all brittle at the top end), much more and much tighter bass and some seriously big drums ... they sound absolutely freekin' fantastic!
At worst I figured I could justify this purchase with the usual 'it'll be handy for the car' or the classic 'it costs less than a round' ... but no, I don't need those lame justifications.
Sure, it would have been interesting to get to wade through a few demo tracks and/or obscurities, but at this price I'm not bothered, and let's face it, there are bound to be future releases that undertake exactly that.
As for the lack of a decent booklet - or any booklet at all - that does seem pretty odd. But hardly critical, given that anyone who really wants to do some nominal research will only take 30 seconds to arm themselves with online resources.
All in all this turns out to be one of the best reissue packages I've seen.
on 19 March 2012
Simple Minds were my favourite band when I was a teenager. The interesting thing is I reached their early recordings from
the much more mainstream "Once Upon a time" and "In the City of Light" era. I was really fortunate, as I found there everything: punk, new wave, glam rock, after punk, kraut-rock, avant-garde...all mixed up with an enormous amount of inspiration and talent. They prepared my ears for other great stuff. Even when I found some too bizarre-to-my-ear things, I knew there was something really good in those albums. Some years later I listen to them again and I find them as fresh and powerful as ever, or even better, as they sound great. Also, I learn a little bit about the departure of drummer Brian McGee and bassist Derek Forbes, which in fact meant a new and different band was born. From my point of view, the chemistry of those 5 guys was so great that no other record from Kerr & Burchill would be near as good, though i really love "Sparkle in the Rain", it is just another band. The incredible thing is they made all this fantastic pop music in less than 5 years! Now, I think Virgin has made a fair good job with this box: the sound is great and no another awful over remastering job has been made. The sleeves are very careful printed, and although some kind of credits or information is missed, a booklet or something, the pretty low price of the box makes it very enjoyable. I really think you will find here truly fantastic pop music which somehow has been underrated because of the much less inspired stuff Kerr and Burchill wrote after these albums. It's a great thing that's been rediscovered. There are not many bands which reach this level of inventive and energy and we have to give that credit to them.
on 12 October 2014
This phase of their now quite long career I find to be without any doubt their most enduring, although I would also have been able to fully embrace a 5-in-a-row with Life In A Day replaced by Sparkle in the Rain. The former is a shade too uneven and derivative, while the latter is the first one of theirs that speaks stadium volume, for better and worse. My favorites among these are the triple Empires and Dance - Sons and Fascination - Sister Feelings Call, which range from Kraftwerkian tones to really great period dance music. The latter two has been paired on one disc on more than one occasion, and I cannot decide between these three which one is the best. Have a go and decide yourself. Its Kraftwerk/Roxy Music textures make them quite European, and especially Empires and Dance is filled with references to traveling, language differences, and past WWII-European city life. You can feel a bit intellectual about it, while you dance. You can't that about much music produced these days. Another very important factor, of course, is that this collection is an absolute, freaking bargain.
It's a bit of a misnomer to call this 6 disc set X5. Let me explain. For the first time since their initial release way back in 1981, "Sons And Fascination" & "Sister Feelings Call" appear in this set as two separate discs, mainly to add the bonus tracks to each album. The first digital release of "Sons..(CDV 2207)", was augmented with only five of the seven tracks from "Sisters.." due to time restrictions on early cd releases. When the entire Simple Minds Virgin catalogue was remastered ten years ago, these two albums, with tech advances in disc writing and increased storage capacity were released with all tracks present as a single combined album, "Sons and Fascination/Sister Feelings Call(SIMCDX4)". They are now considered as one title in the Simple Minds discography even though originally released as two separate records hence the X5 title for this box. The remasters from 2002 were excellent and have also been used for this box set for the most part. Only the bonus tracks were newly mastered in 2012.
When I was tossing up whether to purchase this box set or not I investigated that download store whose name starts with iT and did the sums. It worked out being cheaper to buy the physical release, even though I own the bulk of the tracks included in this six disc set as opposed to buying the 19 bonus tracks individually so it's a no brainer really. Even if, like me, you already own these early albums from the 2002 remaster series, it's worth it for the extra content. The packaging, as other reviewers have written is a bit of a let down. There are no inserts, booklets or additional info apart from what was printed on the original vinyl sleeves. A booklet/content sheet would've been nice but would've added to the cost. It's probably why this set has been released at such an inexpensive price point.
There seems to be much enthusiasm from early Minds fans about the quality mastering of the music in this box set. I'm guessing that some of them have still not forgiven the band for "Once Upon A Time" or THAT song from the film "The Breakfast Club",which I believe the band dislike (even though they still regularly play it). This might explain why many fans were unaware of the 2002 remaster series and are only now enjoying what the devoted have been listening to for ten years. I have never stopped listening to Simple Minds and am a very proud longtime fan. Australia was one of the first places, outside of Europe where Jim, Charlie and the boys first enjoyed chart success. The album New Gold Dream and it's singles were a massive hit here. Personally I've never understood why fans abandon bands because they become popular. If a group is not popular (selling concert tickets/albums/merch etc.) they break up. Besides no-one could ever accuse Simple Minds of not giving back, they're still recording and regularly tour Oz.
And what a fantastic catalogue of music released post "Once Upon A Time" from a band that Britain should be proud of, still going strong after more than 30 years. "Graffiti Soul (Deluxe Edition)" is one their more recent albums that's worth a listen. I'm hoping this set is the start of a full catalogue reissue and am anticipating the bonus tracks on "Sparkle in the Rain" and "Good News from the Next World". This new box set sort of sits between value for money and aimed at the budget conscience. If you didn't buy the albums in 2002 it's a five star set. I already own most of what's here so it's four stars for me.
"I Promised You A Miracle, Belief Is A Beauty Thing".
on 20 February 2012
Ah, the Simple Minds of old before America beckoned and they became a different animal entirely.
So we have confirmation , I assume with Jim and Charlie's agreement, that the 5 first albums are the ones that matter most, show a marked moving on from album to album and form a cohesive body together.
Most buyers will probably already own these albums on CD already and it's a nice package that's not too expensive. Designed to appeal to people of a certain age who can remember how new some of these albums sounded in their day, particularly Empires and Dance,and who still buy cds (me).
BUT it is unforgivable that there is no leaflet let alone booklet included giving full track information particularly as the lettering on several of the replica sleeves if far too tiny to read and there is no explanation of where the bonus tracks are culled from,(I know, but do most people?)
So 5 stars for the music but one star off for this major shortcoming ( I couldn't bring myself to dock off 2 stars).
on 8 March 2012
I can't quite fathom this current obsession with adding new material to reissues. The reason such material was left off in the first place was that it wasn't quite up to scratch. Here they've done the right thing. Taken the five albums that are worth listening to, polished them up a bit and put them out for the price of a Bargain Bucket. I don't want band photos, out-takes, alternative versions, undiscovered "gems" Great songs, BRILLIANT rhythm section and about a million times better than U2. Such a shame they ended up leaking out stuff like Belfast Child. Oh well.
on 14 January 2013
There are few bands that show the degree of change over their first five albums as demonstrated here. Listening to some of this stuff for the first time in 20 years, the overriding impression that this set gives is of a band really at the cutting edge of new wave on the brilliant Life In a Day and Real to Real Cacophony (rivalling bands like Joy Division and Magazine for innovation at that time) but then losing their way somewhat on Empires and Dance and the double album Sons/Sister before turning into a pop band (albeit a great pop band) from New Gold Dream onwards. Having dismissed albums 3 and 4 above, I should say that the bonus tracks for these two albums include the excellent extended editions of I Travel and The American and a terrific instrumental version of This Earth That You Walk Upon. The set only loses a star for me because of the lack of a booklet or similar to explain the context of the albums and in particular the bonus items, which seems particularly odd when you look at the care taken with the boxing and the mini-album covers which have been beautifully (and legibly) reprinted to mirror the original artwork but with the bonus tracks listed as well.
on 6 November 2012
For those who grew up with Jim Kerr and co, this release sums up the essence of what was one of the most innovative and pioneering, yet accessible pop music of the early '80s. From a collector's point of view the box doesn't offer much, as other than the excellent reproduction of the original album covers, no leaflet is included, despite the fact that photographic material from that era is abundant and very interesting. Perhaps it was omitted for cost reasons? What is most important, the sound is excellent. There must have been extensive remastering, as even the cluttered recordings of Life In A Day sound crystal clear. At a price of 14 GBP, the investment is highly rewarding just for the sound quality, even if you already own the respective CDs (my LPs were framed and hung on the wall years ago). There are three relatively obscure gems here, namely "Garden Of Hate", "New Warm Skin" and "Special View", which are for the first time presented in such great sound quality and are a delight for us dedicated fans. I would have also included "Sparkle In The Rain" in the box, as it is definitely one of the band's great albums before Dollar Envy took over.
on 27 April 2012
Ask any amount of Simple Minds fans and they will tell you that early Minds is best and therefore it is no surprise that X5 has received great acclaim from the fans and the ensuing X5 tour which recently began and which I will be attending in July, is receiving much praise.
X5 gathers together the band's first five albums, but there are actually six albums included here if you count Sons And Fascination and Sister Feelings Call as separate albums. Sister Feelings Call was actually a bonus album included with Sons and Fascination but such was its popularity it went on to be released in its own right.
X5 does have some bonus material, comprising some b-sides and extended versions which are a hark back to the halcyon days of the 12-inch single. The main point of X5 however, is to be able to revisit the albums themselves once again and enjoy those early years from their humble beginnings to the start of the band's deserved success.
The first album in the set is the band's 1979 debut album 'Life In A Day' where you can strongly hear the influence of Roxy Music with guitar, synthesizer and the odd dash of sax. Looking back I can see why Simple Minds appealed to me from the start as I have always been a fan of Roxy Music. Although I didn't make the connection back then, years later when listening to it now, the influence of Roxy Music and maybe Bowie is the first thing that springs to mind.
Catchy single 'Chelsea Girl' has always been the first track I think of from this debut album but add to this the title track or 'Sad Affair' for example and you realise those catchy melodies featured on more than just that first track I always think of. The album isn't all early pop rock with a touch of glam however, the early sound of what went on to become their unique atmospheric and often spine-tingling sound is born here. 'Pleasantly Disturbed' is a gem and 'Murder Story''s pulsing bassline are worth mentioning too. Indeed the latter was echoed later by Joy Division with 'Transmission.'
Follow-up album 'Real To Real Cacophony' was also released the same year and saw the band developing further and moving slightly away from the pop sounds evident on much of the debut album. This album has a different feel to the debut, 'Factory', 'Changeling' and 'Premonition' remain my favourites to this day as the album's deeper tracks in my opinion, but overall this album tended to have a more Kraftwerk influenced theme running through it and the synthesizer featured more, with 'Carnival' being a good example featuring 'demented carousel keyboards' as I saw it once described and thought it amusing but very apt.
The next album, 'Empires and Dance' released a year later in 1980, showed that Simple Minds had a lot of ideas, hence the quick succession of these early albums and again this album marked another change. This is the album which whenever I listen to it now, I think it gives a glimpse of the success which was undoubtedly to come, especially on the amazing 'I Travel' which is an explosion of noise with its catchy hook, guitar riffs and thudding drum and bass. Whilst 'Celebrate' although quieter, features the same pulsing bass which is something Simple Minds have perfected over the years. 'Thirty Frames A Second' and another fan favourite from these early days: 'Room' are also standouts here.
1981 saw the release of 'Sons and Fascination' with its bonus album 'Sister Feelings Call' and this is where my love of the band began and so of course I have special memories of these, but these are the albums which saw the band teetering on the edge of the success which was to follow a year later. 'Love Song' is the single from Sons and Fascination which many will recall hearing back then, even if not sure of who the band were. It was catchy and saw the band beginning to perfect the sound which was to shape their future, particularly when you take into consideration the haunting quality of the deeply hypnotic and melancholic 'Seeing Out The Angels' which is a revelation, as is 'This Earth You Walk Upon.' Maybe the 'New Romantic' explosion gave Simple Minds a helping hand too, but to be fair they were always worthy of much more than simply being tagged as another New Romantic band.
'In Trance As Mission' and '70 Cities As love Brings The Fall' are also worthy of mention and I recall after listening to this album back in 1981, feeling excited by what was to follow.
The bonus album, 'Sister Feelings Call' I always remember I didn't expect very much of it at the time, but it was another revelation, thowing up two massive tracks in particular: the instrumental 'Theme For Great Cities' and 'The American' with its memorable rousing chorus.
And so finally we get to 1982 release 'New Gold Dream'. Considered by many to be 'the' Simple Minds album and with which I have to agree. Sons and Fascination had brought them to the verge of success and then along came this album which got to number three in the album chart and spawned further chart success with single releases 'Promised You A Miracle', 'Glittering Prize' and 'Someone, Somewhere In Summertime', the latter being one of my all time favourite Minds' tracks, although I must mention that three of my other favourite Minds' tracks all feature on this album too. Indeed I still get goosebumps everytime I listen to the beautiful and extremely atmospheric tracks 'Hunter And The Hunted' or 'Big Sleep' and never fail to be uplifted by the anthemic title track New Gold Dream. This album has it all, it is evocative, haunting and uplifting from start to finish. The earlier albums saw the band experimenting with their sound and by New Gold Dream, they perfected it.
Whatever people's opinions on the years which followed after these initial albums, these first few years were astounding and whilst I must admit I loved some of the following releases too, the albums here bring back some special memories and I can experience once again in just a few hours, a journey which spanned four years of one of my favourite bands.
on 23 February 2012
X5 is a box set of, perhaps confusingly, the first 6 Simple Minds albums in card sleeves, with extra related B-sides and remixes on each disc. It's an overdue set and one which captures the best of Simple Minds in my view - before the stadium-sized dilution and blandness, just creeping in on New Gold Dream, set in with a vengeance. The stars of the set are discs 2, 3, 4 and 5. Having most of the the original vinyl from first issue it is pleasing to have these on CD and particularly to note that the re-masters are not the numbing over compressed horrors that some record companies put out - they simply sound like the vinyl with all the dynamic range but without the wear. As with all 'original artwork' reduced to CD size sleeves some text becomes illegible - there is no booklet. While there is always the net to search, a booklet would have been a decent addition to the box: not everyone has the LP sleeve to consult. The extra tracks are fine but 'extended' versions are simply that - longer, to no obvious benefit. Live tracks are, perhaps unusually, not just filler but an indication of what a good band pre-arena Simple Minds were.