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on 30 May 2014
Like a lot of people I kinda 'gave up' on Sparks after Big Beat, but for some reason decided to carry on where I'd left off back in 'the day' and buy the Sparks' albums in order. This was the first one & boy, what a good decision it turned out to be. This album is nothing short of amazing from beginning to end. Its' probably a bit more commercial than previous efforts, but without losing any of the quirkiness which first turned me on to the Maels.

Every track is amazing - the first 'Big Surprise' is so damned catchy I find myself humming it continuously 'I want a big surprise tonight, a really big surprise tonight'. 'Occupation' has got the funniest lyrics of any song I've ever heard, honestly - it concerns Russell examing the pro's & con's of certain occupations - cowboy, doctor, pilot - take doctor as an example - 'we doctors are important men, we make you feel well again, you open wide and we look in, and throw in several aspirin' - hilarious lyrics married to another perfect pop melody. Before you catch your breath were in to 'Ladies' - again more amazingly funny lyrics, this time concerning Russell in his house with lots of famous ladies - Dolly Partons in the pool, for example - the part where his wife comes up the drive and he's got to hide all his ladies is side splitting. Things 'toughen up and get a bit heavier on the next couple of tracks 'I'm Not' and 'Forever Young' (not THAT one), but neither track is any less memorable. 'Goofing Off' starts off like 'Zorba the Greek' and probably sums up the Sparks sound as good as any other song on any of their albums I've heard. 'Girls On The Brain' has got a slightly heavier/bluesy sort of vibe, but still contains the trademark Sparks sound. Then on to 'Over The Summer' which is a perfect Beach Boys parody and in my eyes a highlight. Finally there's 'Those Mysteries' - a sort of sweeping/anthemic ballad which I find particularly moving - standout track on a standout album and probably the best song they've ever written thus far.

All in all a Five plus star album. I'm kinda nervous about listening to the next album 'No. 1 in Heaven' I believe, as it surely cannot reach the heights of this gem. Ah well onwards and upwards.
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on 29 April 2015
Case was broken when unpacked.
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on 5 February 2014
Introducing Sparks (it's actually their 7th album, arf) was a return to the eclecticism of 1975's Indiscreet. The LP takes in Russian music (Goofing Off), Beach Boys-esque harmony (Over The Summer) and electric blues (Girls On The Brain), making it much more varied than the previous album. This time Ron and Russell Mael are augmented with LA session musicians giving it all a late '70s AOR sheen (in the year of punk no less!) but it's still the same crazy old Sparks with songs such as Ladies ("Eva Braun is cracking jokes; While Joan of Arc just sits and smokes") and Occupation ("We doctors are important men; We make you feel well again; You open wide and we look in; And throw in several aspirin") exhibiting that trademark Ron Mael humour. Even lyrically straight-forward numbers such as A Big Surprise and Those Mysteries feel tongue-in-cheek, making the whole thing very fun and enjoyable. Another great Sparks album!
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on 3 November 2007
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.
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on 14 August 2009
Weak album? Well, I bought it at a sale some 30 years ago and quickly played it to smithereens (forcing me to buy a second copy). It's got a playful, unpretentious quality, and lots of equally contagious and quirky pop-tunes. I made my own LP-to-CD transfer years ago - great it's finally out on CD (bought it the other minute)!

I've never understood what the criticism was about. This is a humourous look on life, in a musically very varied and melodious setting. To be justly compared with such acts as Jonathan Richman and the Modern Lovers of the late 70s/early 80s with all of their charming naiveté, or the Steely Dan of the mid-70s, before that group got their creative talents drowned in their search for the perfect sound. Or the odd but very catchy neo-punk attitude of French les Rita Mitsouko - remember, Sparks and "Rita" collaborated around 1990.

Now a new generation of listeners can discover what Joan of Arc and Eva Braun have in common, the up-tempo, cheeky "I'm Not", the brilliant Beach Boys pastiche "Over the Summer" and all the melancholy of "Those Mysteries". Plus the rest - it's a very varied song collection and a should be a must for anyone enjoying Sparks, old and new. And to me, it beats "Kimono My House" any day. That landmark from 1974 had its highs and lows, the lows of which I cannot find here. Enjoy!
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on 31 July 2009
This album has only recently been released on cd, the reasons why it was hidden away are, as Sparks might say, one of those mysteries. That final song is justification alone for buying this, a beautiful, haunting, catchy piece of Ron Mael brilliance. (I know Russ gets a credit on the album, but please...) By 1977, the year of the album`s release, the group was really just the Mael brothers, the likes of Dinky Diamond and co. mere footnotes. Starting with Big Surprise the nine songs go by at a lightening speed, with the magnificent final track the undoubted highlight.
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on 18 February 2013
As the likes of Bee Gees and Donner Summer fought with the likes of The Stranglers and Sex Pistols in the charts of '77, Sparks brought out and titled their 7th studio album(now on CBS) 'Introducing Sparks.' Why? I've never understood. At the time, the 16 year old me found this LP a disappointment. As an older person I enjoyed the songs but understood its commercial failure. Sometimes with Sparks records, just because a release failed in the UK, didn't mean it didn't do well elsewhere. To my knowledge, I don't believe this record did very well anywhere.

Produced by Terry Powell and Ron & Russell Mael, this album was soaked with session musicians. Some of which would go on to be in Toto. Also, noteworthy, was than as with 1976's Big Beat having all tracks by Ron Mael only. On here, Russell had co-credits on all 9 songs. Incidently, it took 9 months to record this album.

In UK and parts of Eurpe, 'A Big Surprise' was the lead single. It some ways you might regard it as the only one. Other countries that didn't get this song, got'Over The Summer.'

For me, 'Over The Summer' and 'Girls On The Brain' should have been natural release choices, but, you never know if those choices are the label or the brothers Mael. Two songs have an irony for me. It was pleasing to hear sparks songs with guitar solos again. They being in songs that had titles that seam to sum up this album, 'Goofing Off' and 'Those Mysteries.'

For those new to Sparks this LP isn't an essential purchase. For the die hards'
lyrics like "I searched the whole encyclopedia from A to Z and had no luck.
It listed Beriberi, menopause and even halitosis,..no luck.

But then I asked my brother, who is kinda thick, Tell me what I got? I'm feeling realy sick. Brother, keep away from me, you got girls on the brain." It just brings a wry smile to your face.
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on 15 June 2010
It gets one star, not for the music but for the remastering. The CD has been remastered from a vinyl LP and not the original studio master tapes Sony has in their vaults. What's really unfortunate are the two outtakes that were also included in the Sony vaults, which are said to be titled 'Kidnapped' and 'Keep Me', remain unheard in their studio form. It should be noted that a demo version of 'Kidnap' (sic?) was included on one of the briefly available Japanese reissues from a couple of years ago, but that Japanese SHM-CD was the same lame vinyl transfer of the original album, complete with flaws and glitches. So what's the point?

Introducing Sparks often gets a bad rap for being a bad album, but it's not. It's just not up to the standards of the famous Island records trilogy. Sparks were running low on ideas by this point, but some of the songs do work well, but just barely. 'Occupation' is a nagging little song that lists a multitude of occupations one can achieve, even ending the song with an A-Z list. The "La, la, an occupation for you hoo..." chorus borders on the highly catchy to insanely annoying. There is also a music video for this song, and it was just what I hoped it would be; Russell portraying many of the occupations he is singing about. It's 70's cheese at its finest. 'Ladies' was a song that escaped me for years as nothing more than a cornball novelty. Now I view it as essential listening..., as a cornball novelty. 'Over the Summer' is the failed single, but it shouldn't have been. It's very catchy in a sort of Beach Boys manner, and is one of the strongest songs in the set. 'Goofing Off' is another that borders the stupid/catchy bridge, but the catchy side wins out. Some songs do not succeed, though. 'Girls On The Brain' stays clearly on the stupid side, while 'Those Mysteries' is just an overblown snore. 'Forever Young' is very dated in that 70's AOR rock style.

Introducing Sparks is far from a bad album, but the long-awaited CD reissue is a total let down. I don't care how nicely you reproduced the cover art, I wanted a crystal clear transfer of the studio master tapes, not someone's homemade vinyl cleanup job. Obtain the master tapes, bake at 130 degrees for five hours, let cool in oven another five hours, put the reel on the spindle and start transferring. No more excuses.
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