Thursday, February 6, 2014

Simple Minds - Sparkle in the Rain

Today (February 6th) marks the thirtieth anniversary of Sparkle in the Rain, the sixth studio album from the Scottish band Simple Minds. Following New Gold Dream from the previous year (click here for that review), this 1984 release went to number 64 on the US Billboard Album chart (with a twenty-four week stay on the chart), number 19 in Switzerland, number 17 in France, number 15 in Australia, number 2 in the Netherlands and Sweden, and number 1 in New Zealand and the UK.

Side one begins with “Up on the Catwalk”, the third single. It charted at number 44 in New Zealand, number 27 in the UK and number 16 in Ireland. It has a heavier percussion sound that sets the foundation of the tune.

The mid-tempo rocker “Book of Brilliant Things” has strong imagery to the Bible and the Word of God.

The second single “Speed Your Love to Me” was released a week prior to the album. It reached number 76 in Australia, number 46 in New Zealand, number 20 in the UK, number 18 in Sweden and number 9 in Ireland. This love song has a strong resemblance to U2’s music at the time, which is not a big surprise since producer Steve Lillywhite worked with Simple Minds on this one.

“Waterfront”, the first single, preceded the album in late 1983. It went to number 19 in Australia, number 16 in Sweden, number 13 in the UK, number 5 in Ireland and number 1 in New Zealand. It opens with an intriguing guitar hook that, for me, gets quickly blurred by the synths and drums.

“East of Easter” has a very intimate feel to it. I think it is because of the dominant synth hooks that remind me of falling rain on a gray day. With the second verse, the sound builds with a thunderous intensity.

Side two starts with “Street Hassle”, a cover of the 1978 song by Lou Reed from his self-titled album. The band here puts it to a march rhythm, adding a nice layer to the conflict.

“White Hot Day” is up next. I see its lyrics reflecting, with some sadness, on events in the past.

“’C’ Moon Cry Like a Baby” follows. I believe “C” Moon is the reference to a particular woman that the band knew.

“The Kick Inside of Me” mixes things up a bit rhythmically, going for a rawer rock edge to it. In a number of ways, it reminds me a bit of INXS whom I like a lot. This is easily my favorite track on side two; it immediately captured my interest.

The album closes with the instrumental “Shake Off the Ghost”. This one definitely sounds different than most of what follows; it has a raw, less polished feel to it. Even the opening with the scratchy textures gives it a far-distant vibe.

This review was my first exposure to many of the deeper cuts from Sparkle in the Rain. I knew of the singles, mostly thanks to a Simple Minds compilation album I got in the 90’s. I am sure I heard them too, back in 1984, from the campus radio station. College Music Journal placed the album at number 20 on its “Top 20 Most-Played Albums of 1984”; it definitely was a favorite among the student set back in the day. I did not immediately fall in love with the record, but it is one I am willing to give another listen or two to in order to see if it is one I want to add to my library.

1 comment:

HERC said...

Loved the band's preceding album so I had high hopes for this one when it came out nearly two years later and it didn't disappoint. The three singles and the rockier "The Kick Inside Of Me" remain favorites to this day.

According to interviews, when U2 worked with producers Brian Eno and Daniel Lanois for the first time on The Unforgettable Fire, the band played New Gold Dream (the album before Sparkle In The Rain) and told them “We want some of that."