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4.1 out of 5 stars
9
Sparks: Talent is an Asset
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on 1 June 2010
This is the second book about Sparks to have been published in the past year - and an excellent one it is too!

At the time of writing, it is bang up to date and includes their recent Swedish Radio musical "The Seduction of Inmar Bergmann".

If you are expecting to the the minutae of Ron and Russell Mael's daily lives, then you will be sorely disappointed. Both are private individuals and let the music speak for itself - and what music!

With a 22 album career (so far!) that takes in glam rock, disco, techno, operatic-pop and much more, you are in for an interesting ride as Sparks consistently surprise.

Previous bands members and other associates have been interviewed for this tome, but there are no new interviews with R&R themselves. The fact that Sparks have managed to retain their otherworly mystique for all these years is rare in the music industry.

A great read for anyone who has enough taste to consider themself a Sparks fan.
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on 5 August 2013
Though informative in a chronologiocal career based way, there's no real indication of why Ron is such a singular and persistent creative talent, or at what level Russel contributes throughout their output ( for example he gets some compositional credits - but what does he do regarding choice of projects or musical direction?) ;- even allowing for the fact that the brothers did not directly contribute new material. Daryl's comments on each of the albums mentioned could benefit from expansion, as to me, some comments are puzzling , e.g Why does "Dick Around" get short shrift when by any standards it is a great song in terms of music, arrangement, production and lyrics?
These are minor gripes really as the book does breeze along and is written with warmth and admiration
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on 30 January 2013
A must read for Sparks fans, but probably less so for those with only a passing interest in the Mael brothers, as there's no real incite into the very private lives of the curious duo. This is all about the music and the detail is excellent, with contributions from practically everyone who ever played a part in the story. Sparks was the first band I saw live (Torquay, 1974) and I've maintained a soft spot for their erratic and eclectic output over all these years. All the fits and starts are here - by god, these boys are durable! And the talent remains.
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on 26 February 2014
Wonderfull item, by the best and most Original band around, ever since 1969.
Absolutely love it. Sparks keep on going.
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VINE VOICEon 5 June 2010
There's a description of Sparks in this book which sums them up perfectly: a Marmite band, in that you either love them or hate them. I fall into the former category - my girlfriend into the second, so I have to listen to their albums on headphones! - and absolutely adore almost everything they've done, so when I heard about this book I had to buy it.

The book looks great, a chunky hardback with three sets of black & white photos between within its pages, and the writing style is clear and easy to read (the author is a music journalist and a fan of the band). However, it must be stressed that this is an unauthorised biography and the Mael brothers did not participate in any way, so there are no new interviews with Ron & Russell, any quotes from them coming from old interviews. There are plenty of contributions from other band members past and present though, and support staff such as managers and record company executives. As with Sparks themselves, it is always entertaining, and I personally found it became more interesting as it went on, especially when their 1970s heyday had passed and they fell out of the limelight in the UK, releasing a string of cultishly popular albums in the USA for a decade or so, before they eventually returned to critical acclaim with the likes of "Li'l Beethoven". The book brings us right to the present too, also covering their most recent album, the radio musical "The Seduction of Ingmar Bergman", and at the end there is a discography, and a nice "what happened next?" where the current activities of many of the people mentioned in the book are detailed.

Any faults? After the detailed early chapters it does appear to become a little rushed, and rather than each chapter covering a single album as is the case in the earlier stages, towards the end there are some which cover up to three albums in a few pages. In addition, many of the chapters seem to mainly consist of a glorified review, where an album is mentioned, its critical reaction is outlined, and then the author delivers his own opinion where he picks his favourite tracks. These parts did feel slightly rushed, sketchy, and a little disappointing. I also found it surprising that there isn't an index.

On the whole it's a very worthwhile read for any serious Sparks fan, and I personally felt I learned a lot about them and their music. If you're not a fan this won't change your opinion, but if you are you'll find this a treat.
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TOP 1000 REVIEWERon 1 March 2015
If Sparks had stopped after the opening salvo of...

Kimono My House 1974
Propaganda 1975
Indiscreet 1975

...they'd still be exceptional. Those three albums were amongst the first I ever bought as I migrated from singles to albums (at least until punk came along).

For most UK pop kids, Sparks announced their arrival with a Top Of The Pops performance for "This Town Ain't Big Enough For The Both Of Us" and Ron Mael's alarming psycho stare and disturbing appearance that reminded everyone, especially older viewers, of someone they'd rather forget.

However, Sparks did not stop, or fizzle out in 1975. They kept going and, with varying degrees of success, the Mael brothers continued to prioritise creativity and innovation over commercial considerations. They never topped that opening triumvirate of Kimono My House, Propaganda and Indiscreet (and yes, I know technically these were albums 3-5), however they have certainly continued to create many fine songs.

Their Georgio Moroder inspired dancefloor reinvention of 1979, "No. 1 Song in Heaven" was as unexpected as it was wonderful. I had that one on fetching yellow vinyl and made sure I bought all the 12 inch remixes of the singles too.

Think about it, there really are very few acts who can compare with the Maels in terms of longevity and freshness, so a book that explores their career should be quite a read eh?

And, to an extent it is. Daryl Easlea provides an engagingly written account of their career, placing each era in context.

The Mael brothers are an enigma though and no one has yet overcome the vacuum of information about their lives outside of music. I'm only interested in their music, and if the same applies to you, then I recommend this book.

I would be interested in reading the thoughts of someone who tried to imagine what lurks behind the perfect pop personas of the Mael brothers. The closest thing I have read are the musings of one Gummo Mael (aka Paul Morley) and his twenty Sparks "facts" listed in the sleeve notes to "Mael Intuition: The Best of Sparks 1974-76". Who were those Marxed men? Really, it was just Ron and Russell, ex-models, ex ice cream salesmen, ex anglophile teen nuts, extreme, exactly. Really, it was Ron and Russell. You just had to look, look, look....

...heartbeatincreasingheartbeat...

...you just have to listen.

And that's really all there is to it.
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on 25 November 2011
This study of one of the weirdest musical acts around is a bit of a mixed bag. In its favour, the writer (and he certainly can write) has done a lot of sterling work digging into the band's earliest days, and catching up with their current and former collaborators to paint a picture of them as others who know them have seen them. The brothers themselves weren't interviewed for the book but this isn't really a shortcoming because they are incorrigible, inventive and very funny liars (Doris Day's sons, indeed), so almost wholly unreliable.

What is missing is anything other than the band's recording career. We get every detail of which studio they recorded this or that album in, and who they were signed to, and so on. We hear absolutely nothing about the obvious questions about the Maels. They're both well into their sixties, unmarried and have spent their entire working lives together scratching a living by relocating intercontinentally to wherever their records were selling - what's that about? Don't they want any settlement or security in their lives? What do they do to amuse themselves? Not one girlfriend, boyfriend, or hobby is mentioned unless you count Russell's '57 Thunderbird and Ron's collection of collections. Who were their friends? Whose music do they listen to? Ron's lyrics are hilarious but why write those and why are they so hilarious? What's with the Hitler moustache? Apparently, with only one exception, every album they've made has sold worse than its predecessor. How do they feel about that, and is that the real reason behind the constant self-reinvention?

If you read a biography of Errol Flynn or someone like that, the performance always turns out to be only part of the performance; the really entertaining stuff is what happens offstage. One would love to hear about this from Sparks, but it isn't there, and it's not here. Either they are deeply boring or someone's holding back....and I just wish they wouldn't.

In summary, the book is well-written, well-researched and engaging. It is, though, very strictly an account of the music, not of the personalities in it. These emerge only reluctantly, which is our loss because personality as much as talent has always been Sparks' best asset.
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on 9 November 2011
The seduction of ingmar bergman Sparks latest musical creation relays to the title of this book "Talent is an asset" as its obvious the meal brothers are realy [from the song talent is and asset]ALBERT EINSTIENS , recreated but with humour. As a sparks fan since seing the totp this town in the 70s i throughly enjoyed this book about the mystical ron and russell .The ins and a outs of getting noticed on the music scene , rearanging the group a few times . jet hopping to try to catch the uk market to take on their respective music ,but as usual fighting against the beurocrats of the music scene with their magamillion parasitic ways, making cash from dire music and created groups .Unfortunately those people [including DJS] did not like sparks who were new ,exciting ,unique, and a tad risque.The book was an excellent read but still no insight to the guys personal lives but hey why should they offer their whole lives to us we really want the music and they dont half deliver .Buy this book if you are a fan .
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on 18 April 2010
I have been a Sparks fan since 1974. I was very satisfied with this book (actually, still reading it...) and it includes a lot of information I never knew about the Maels until now. Very satisfied customer. Buy it! Great photos too, some I have never seen before.
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