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Here in Heaven?,
This review is from: Introducing Sparks: Special Edition (Rus) (Audio CD)
It's 30 years since this album was released on vinyl and it remained the only Sparks release never to have been officially released on CD until now.
God knows what fans of recent releases will make of this. It was quite a shock hearing this back in 1977. The hits in the UK had dried up and the 1976 release of 'Big Beat' was a major change in style producing a more garage sound than anything that had been released earlier. It wasn't a commercial success and the production by Rupert Holmes wasn't the greatest. It grew on me but at the time I was a die hard Sparks fanatic looking for the next piece of inspiration but 'Big Beat' was a patchy affair when you consider how inventive they had been on the three previous releases. It's an album that even divides Sparks fans.
The Maels had relocated back to the US and the second instalment was 'Introducing Sparks' on CBS records. It was Sparks' first real attempt to crack the big time in the USA. Utilising expensive session musicians and sounding like the Beach Boys against the prevailing punk scene in the UK this sounded so damn wierd. The opening track ' A Big Surprise' was the most straightforward song on the album. It was pleasant enough but lacked the wit and inventiveness of their UK hit singles. God knows why it was chosen as a single as the 'B' side 'Forever Young' was more upbeat. I couldn't help feeling that the Sparks I had grown fanatical about had somewhat lost the plot in their attempts to gain widespread acceptance. 'Ladies' is a pleasant enough song with clever wordplay that Sparks have used to good effect in many of their compositions over the years. My personal faourites are 'Occupation', 'Goofing Off' and the ballad and final track 'Those Mysteries'. 'Occupation' is an amusing little ditty decidicated to specific professions: cowboys, doctors, salesmen and pilots, and it rocks along at a good old pace. 'Goofing Off' is so unexpected. Are we ready for an Austrian waltz? This is one of the highlights for me and its on the theme of working but is so off the wall. I loved it when I first heard it back then and I love it now. It sounds like it should have appeared on the Tony Visconti-produced 'Indiscreet'. 'Those Mysteries' finds vocalist Russell Mael in philosophical mood asking those questions that no-one ever seems to answer. It's a good way to end the album. In between two songs dedicated to the fairer sex: the angst ridden 'Girls on the Brain' and then the closest Sparks have ever come to sounding like the Beach Boys with 'Over The Summer'.
Overall this CD is worth investing in but I think its appeal will be limited to Sparks fans only. It can't have been one of the Mael Brothers' finest moments as the next release was another shift of style with the release of the Giorgio Moroder produced 'Number One in Heaven' that produced three hit singles in 'Number One in Heaven', 'Beat The Clock' and 'Tryouts For The Human Race'. It brought Sparks a whole new audience particularly in France and Germany but their creative well was for me personally running dry on 'Terminal Jive', but that would be another three years on.