Monthly Archives: January, 2015

Simple Minds First Five Albums

sm band

I used to be a massive Simple Minds fan. I saw them everywhere. Detroit, Toronto, New York City, Edinburgh hell even Poughkeepsie. After a while I kept it quiet because lets face it, they just weren’t cool anymore or so I thought. I owned a record shop that kept up to date with all things Indie. US & UK. My staff kept me on my toes. They seemed destined to be one of my guilty pleasures.

Having said that I cant tell you how happy I am at the resurgence of interest in Simple Minds. In the UK I know the Manics cite them as a major influence. Primal Scream as well.  The Cocteau Twins got their name from a Simple Minds song.

The first time I heard them was walking into a record shop and hearing Promised You A Miracle. I bought the 12″ immediately. Then Glittering Prize came out and that was it. I was hooked. The next step- New Gold Dream came out. I read a review in NME and found a UK import at a local record shop and was at first underwhelmed. Then track by track the LP started creeping into my subconcious thus becoming my favorite record ever. I loved every song on that record.

The next logical step was working my way back thru their catalog. This is what I found.

 

sm life Life In A Day is a synth fueled poppy punk record. I was amazed to find out it was actually released in the US. There are some great songs on this record. The title track Life In A Day, Chelsea Girl among others. The stunner here is Pleasantly Disturbed. This was a glimpse of things to come for Simple Minds. It is worth owning this album for this song alone and it really doesn’t seem to fit. It is 8 minutes long. It builds and builds. It sounds like a prog track on this record.

 

sm reel Reel To Real Cacophony is where things start to take shape. This starts the post punk discordant iciness this period of Simple Minds were known for. A new European influence appears here also. While this is an intense listen Simple Minds show a sense of humor in Carnival(Shelter In A Suitcase). Other standout tracks from this album are the singles: Premonition and Changeling. Digging deeper the title track(again) Reel To Real, Cacophony and Calling Your Name all in their own way stand out.

sm emp Empires And Dance continues this direction with more immediate results. This album blasts off right from the start with I Travel. A monster of a song. Celebrate is a funky stunner. This Fear Of Gods and Capital City seem like travelogues. This album finishes with what may well be my favorite 4 1/2 minutes of Simple Minds entire catalog. Kant-Kino & Room. Influenced by either some of the German krautrock scene or maybe Eno. I wish Room was 15 minutes long. It has been reintroduced in the live set. I would love to see that live.

 

sm sons Sons And Fascination/Sister Feelings Call was my next purchase after New Gold Dream. Something I was ill prepared for post NGD. This is now my favorite album by Simple Minds. Where do I start? Sons And Fascination I guess. Definitely inspired once again by European travel or maybe just travel in general. On S&F Simple Minds seem a bit more up front and aggressive. I cant think of many bands who’s songs allow so many band members step in and drive songs. Whether it is Derek Forbe’s bass, Brian McGee’s drums, Mick MacNeil’s keyboards or Charlie Burchill’s guitar. Track by track it changes. If I had pick songs it would go something like this: In Trance As Mission, 70 Cities As Love Brings The Fall, Love Song is a monster finishing with the sublime Seeing Out The Angel.

Sister Feelings Call is simply part two of this set. The amazing tracks continue. SFC starts out with the incredible instrumental Themes For Great Cities and is followed by one of the all time Simple Minds singles The American. My favorite track on this album is Wonderful In Young Life. Punchier than a lot of the other tacks on these albums it is Charlie Burchill’s searing guitar that makes Wonderful In Young Life so unforgettable.

sm ngd New Gold Dream is Simple Minds magnum opus. The edges are smoothed out. It is a lush and dreamy album. It produced two major singles in Promised You A Miracle and Glittering Prize. It is the other tracks that hooked me and turned me in to the massive fan I am. The title track New Gold Dream 81-82-83-84 is another one of my favorite all time Simple Minds tracks add Someone Somewhere In Summertime, Big Sleep, Somebody Up There Likes You and you have on amazing album. Worth seeking out is the amazing instrumental b-side  called Soundtrack For Every Heaven which is beautiful.

The reason I chose to stop after the first five albums is because the band feels strongly enough about this part of their career they put out the 5 X 5 box set which contains all these albums with a lot of b-sides, live tracks and uber rare tracks. They also did a 5 X 5 tour where they played 5 tracks from each of these albums. Who am I to argue?

I am very happy to still be a fan of Simple Minds. I still listen to these records. They have done something very difficult. They have made several albums that have withstood the test of time. Not an easy thing to do. Make timeless music.

Now please tour North America again.

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Link Wray 1971 S/T LP Polydor 24-4064

link 1971

Link Wray’s Polydor debut from 1971 sounds kinda like The Band meets The Rolling Stones, with a healthy side of Van Morrison playing gospel blues somewhere in the Mississippi Delta.

When someone gives a description like that I would hope this would be a record people would want to hear. I had always assumed Link Wray was just the rockabilly dude who wrote Rumble. Ever since a nondescript burned CD arrived on my doorstep from an angel in Scotland by way of Jason Spaceman my life changed musically.

This LP, Polydor 24-4064, is one of those gems that needs to be introduced to all your friends who appreciate any form of rock, country, blues or psych. It ticks all those boxes and more. This record and it’s brethren Mordicai Jones and Beans & Fatback that make up Link Wray’s Three Track Shack trilogy are played with such honesty and feeling they jump right out of the grooves. Oh yeah, they get funky too.  All this recorded in a converted chicken coop. I know right?

The opening track, La De Da, is a heartfelt gospel-ish song and when you close your eyes you imagine a full band with backup singers just romping and stomping their way thru this all with giant smiles on their faces. Kinda like one of those Saturday night get togethers you read about that happened all over the south and Appalachia. People just showing up with whatever instrument they own and joining in.

Take Me Home Jesus is a flat out gospel ballad sung with such honesty and conviction you immediately believe.

Juke Box Mama. This is as funky as this record gets. Link digs even deeper for the vocals on this track. The bass sets the tone here and the rest of this song falls right into place. Juke Box Mama actually swings with that funky ass bass.

Rise And Fall Of Jimmy Stokes is 1970’s country storytelling. This however goes way beyond country storytelling. Again the bass is the pulse of this song. It paces this track along at an even keel. Not far off from Link Wray’s first rap track.There is an amazing instrumental interlude with Link’s guitar and bass dueling against one another.

Fallin’ Rain is just a flat out gorgeous ballad. Link’s voice even sounds different on this track. When the back up vocals come in your heart just melts. This whole song is played seemingly effortlessly. Just a joy.

Fire And Brimstone is a stomper. This time Link’s acoustic guitar leads you into a land below the Mason Dixon line. His vocals are more guttural. F&B just takes off and doesn’t stop. There is an instrumental mid section that does not slow the F&B down one bit. Wear comfortable shoes for this track. Your feet wont stop moving(or stomping).

Ice People is soft yet dark. Once again so convincing and wonderfully played.

God Out West rocks. God Out West rolls. It makes you believe once again. You get that signature Link Wray guitar midway through the song. Best track on the LP in my opinion. Singing Hallelujah!

I cant decide if Crowbar is country storytellin’ or a Blues song. It is a microcosm of this whole LP. It meshes so many styles it almost defies description. Wicked guitar on this song too!

Black River Swamp is a country gospel song. Beautiful in its simplicity and exquisitely played. Another song in which Link Wray’s vocals stand out like yet another instrument.

Tail Dragger has the most aggressive electric guitar on the record. Yet there is that funky bass. Link’s vocals are also at their most aggressive here. Yet another confounding track as it swings along albeit aggressively.

This record entered my life out of nowhere. Being a disciple of all things Spacemen 3 and Spiritualized I never heard Jason Spaceman name check this LP in any interview. Thank god my friend Barry in Scotland was listening and picked up on it. Now I cant imagine my life without it.

I have turned on a lot friends to this record and it’s popularity is growing with each person doing the same. I am not sure what it is. Maybe the amazing honesty and conviction within the grooves. Maybe because it was recorded in a converted chicken coop and not at Muscle Shoals or in any studio. Perhaps it is because it sounds so effortless and like everyone playing is grinning from ear to ear knowing full well they are part of something special.

90% of the LPs you see for sale are cutouts which means this record never sold many copies. Now it sells for $30 to $50 regularly on line. I don’t work for them or have any other incentive other than to spread the word but Hip O Select have these CDs in replica die cut sleeves and it is remastered. It is a gorgeous package.http://www.hip-oselect.com/scr.public.product.asp?product_id=89e7f7f7-61f5-7f0f-c102-2527b55e2713&cat_id=42029550-8DEE-4E9C-B712-5F1511256DD9

Do yourself a favor. Buy one. Could be the best $20 you ever spent on a CD.