All-Time Albums: #40


SIMPLE MINDS Sparkle In The Rain

Up On The Catwalk 4:45 (UK single, #27)
B Book Of Brilliant Things 4:20
Speed Your Love To Me 4:25 (UK single, #20)
Waterfront 4:49 (UK single, #13)
E East At Easter 3:30
F Street Hassle 5:15
G White Hot Day 4:33
H “C” Moon Cry Like A Baby 4:21
The Kick Inside Of Me 4:45
J Shake Off The Ghosts 3:58

(Yes, the tracks really were attributed letters of the alphabet instead of boring old numbers).

From arty beginnings, Simple Minds had become Top 20 regulars and Top Of The Pops/Smash Hits favourites by the end of 1983 thanks largely to the New Gold Dream album and hits like Promised You A Miracle, Glittering Prize and Waterfront. The latter track would be a first taster of Sparkle In The Rain’s cavernous, electrified bombast, a statement of intent that they were not about to relinquish the level of fame they’d worked so hard to achieve.

It sounded massive, but it would be wrong to say it had no subtlety or atmosphere. The same applied to Sparkle In The Rain itself, as beneath the cascade of crashing percussion and widescreen keyboards were some pretty amazing songs with even more amazing middle eights and bridges that took the breath away.

Waterfront became the band’s equal-biggest hit, and was followed by Speed Your Love To Me, which strangely peaked at its debut position on the chart. Time to worry? Not when the album went straight in at #1 a couple of weeks later. Further chart success was limited to Up On The Catwalk’s minor Top 30 status later in the Spring, and in truth the main reason for Sparkle In The Rain’s lengthy residency on the bestsellers lists during 1984 and 1985 was a track which wasn’t on the album, namely Don’t You Forget About Me.

Following up an iconic, breakthrough record like New Gold Dream can’t have been easy, and Jim Kerr has alluded to the difficulties surrounding this album’s genesis in recent interviews. They knew they had something special, a new dynamic to their sound which was offering fresh creative options as well as wider commercial possibilities. And yet he feels they rushed things a little, and given time it could have been a stronger whole, rather than overly frontloaded on Side One with the best, most realised material.

He has a point; the first half is just about perfect, with the trio of sublime, breathless singles joined by two excellent album cuts – Book of Brilliant Things and East At Easter – that took on a new life during their 1986 World Tour. By contrast, the second side is a bit of an anti-climax, an overlong Lou Reed cover outstays its welcome despite a cool intro and interesting arrangement, then a pair of clearly unfinished songs before the pace picks up quite stunningly with The Kick Inside Of Me and its companion piece instrumental Shake Off The Ghosts. The contrast between the two segued tracks is almost a reverse of the trick Propaganda would pull with Duel/Jewel a year later.

Sparkle In The Rain is a vivid snapshot of a band on the rise, between the moody art-pop of New Gold Dream and the designed-for-stadiums balls-out pop/rock of Once Upon A Time.

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