A shame the reviewer was off the mark with his interpretation of I Know but other than that, it’s a pretty great review. This album has been awash with plaudits. All richly deserved, of course. It is well braw!
Having involved myself with a great simultaneous live “listen to” on the Simple Minds International Facebook group…I thought I’d share my thoughts on the album, track by track. Now, if you are a reader of my blog and/or know me from the Simple Mimds fanbase, you probably know that if I don’t like something, I tend to keep schtum. I think my review is fair and balanced. If I didn’t think it was, I wouldn’t share it. If I hated the album, I wouldn’t review it. So…here goes!
The American – Like the reworked musical structure. A bit too much like Derek’s version. Don’t like Jim’s vocal much. I absolutely LOVE the song. It’s in my Top 50. I liked the way it was performed on the Big Music tour. He’s naturally more tenor when singing live than the baritone he can lower to in the studio. It has a darkness to it I like..but. There are weird…annunciations of words sung too…yes, I am being pernickety…but I am being honest about what I don’t like about it instead of just saying “because I don’t”. Maybe I’ll be won over more with more listens. 5/10
Promised You A Miracle – I like it. Just…like. Not wild about it. It does sound a little like the recording Jim did with Martha Wainwright. And, I must admit, having heard it at Hackney, performed with Sarah and Catherine, that version sounded better. I hear what others have said about it…that it’s more KT Tunstall featuring Simple Minds, rather than the other way around. 6/10
Glittering Prize – The most anticipated track, for me. I cried when I heard a snippet of it from the Zermatt gig back in April. I posted on the SM FB wall saying how beautiful it sounded. The recorded version didn’t disappoint. Tender, upbeat, romantic. Keeps to the original sentiment and feeling of the song, but with that acoustic treatment. My favourite track on the album. 9/10
See The Lights – Not really much to be done with this, considering how it originally was. It’s not in my Top 50 of Minds songs. It’s pleasant enough. Never understand the lyric change with the “look right through your disguise” bit. But hey, Jim writes them. He can change lyrics if he wants. OK. 6/10
New Gold Dream – The original is SSSOOO electronically rich. I mean…such amazing keyboard work from Mick! I could not imagine how this was going to sound. It really has given this a whole new spin. It seems to work, I think. I’m still unsure of my opinion on this one. It certainly shows off Cherisse Osei’s skills as a percussionist. 7/10 for now. Glad we went back to the true “81/82/83/84” line though.
Someone Somewhere In Summertime – The real surprise for me. It works well! Still not sure I like the omission of the first “burning slow” opening lines…but I can understand why the way it’s been reworked why you’d leave it out. The slower pace works. It’s altered the sentiment of the song. It sounds more yearning and slightly less romantic, if that makes sense? It has more “drama”. My second favourite track on the album. 8/10
Waterfront – Who knew this would work without that heavy bass and crashing drum? This was the first Simple Minds track I heard back at the time that I REALLY liked. It got my attention INSTANTLY and it was down to that bass and drum. So, yeah…I was really intrigued by how this was going to sound. Again…a surprise it works quite well! There seems to be fewer words sung on this these days…which kind of leaves it a little TOO sparse for an acoustic track. I usually think the more space a track has, the better, but I’m unsure here. Still not sure on my final thoughts on this. A tentative 7/10.
Sanctify Yourself – Jim not singing the “Yourself” part of the title antagonises me no end! It just sounds lazy. He sings it sometimes…but not every time. Sorry. Not good enough! I just needed to say that and get it out the way. I like the musical structure. His talk of the harmonica when he was doing the radio shows earlier in the year obviously made for the instrument’s inclusion SOMEWHERE on this album! Jury’s still out for me. The original has been a long favourite…so, while I’m still fence-sitting, I’ll give it a 6/10 for now.
Chelsea Girl – Good feel to it. Musically, the reworking is great. A bit of the lyric has gone awry for some reason. I do like this. It still retains its “rock” feel. And Jim’s final utterance of “Chelsea Girl” is, as I have said before, like his nuts have been lowered into a bucket of ice! Lol. 7/10
Alive And Kicking – Another surprise for me! Didn’t hold out much hope I was going to like it. Over the years it has become a little overplayed. I loved it for years…but it just…got a bit old. But this has given it the breath of fresh air it needed, and Jim and Sarah sound great together. 8/10
Don’t You (Forget About Me) – Sounds like a good reboot. Not sure I can say much more than that about this. The song is a bane. I kind of love to hate it. It’s not theirs. Non fans give it too much praise. It’s all they’re known for. Ya da ya da. But…it is a good, solid rework. It made me like the song again. 7/10
Long Black Train – Beautiful…poignant. Tender. Soft. A lovely cover. And was beautifully done at Hackney on Thursday as well. A lovely ending to the album. And I’m a sucker for any song that mentions a bird! 8/10
(Further views on Glittering Prize)
It’s a rare one on the album for me in that it sounds as good on it to me as it does live. For nearly every other track, that’s not the case. BUT…having said that…that is the mark of a GREAT band. If you can sound better live than on record, you get full marks from me!! So…while the Acoustic album is good and doesn’t bowl me over…the Hackney gig did!
(Further views on The American)
I’ve heard it about 4 or 5 times now…and I’m not taken with this particular version. I don’t know why Jim’s vocal on this grates on me so much…it just does. He sounds better live singing this. He’s not trying to overdo the baritone live.
Overall summary of the album:
It is a canny masterstroke of a final track. (Long Black Train.) It leaves you erring on that…almost nostalgic feeling of “aw…that was alright”. But…that’s all it is. Alright. (The album as a whole.) I think it all sounds better live. Hackney was great gig. The album misses that audience atmosphere. Perhaps they should have just done the gigs and then produced a live album from it.
It has some great stuff and some not so good stuff. Solid without being knockout. It’s a good stop-gap, and a change until the big FOUR ZERO celebrations. I think the Uncut magazine review last month was spot on, really. 6/10
UPDATE: Actually, upon further reflection…I think I marked it a little low. Because I love them so much and because I love the whole acoustic sound much more live than as it has been captured in the studio (even though this is an album review), I have to bump the score a notch to a 7/10. It deserves a seven. Six is only just above 5 and five is TOTALLY midling. I’m not that ‘in the middle’ with it. A seven is good without saying “this is the best thing since sliced bread”.
Final album score: 7/10
Two reviews of Real To Real Cacophony by Red Starr in Smash Hits magazine, late 1979. The first one (on blue page) give a somewhat disparaging but ultimately positive review and a rating of 8/10. The second review betrays the dismissive tone of the first and is utterly glowing and is rate 9.5/10!!
I don’t think I’ve seen an album be reviewed TWICE – by the same reviewer. It reveals that also it was back in a time where people invested TIME in music. And money! Music wasn’t cheap. It wasn’t a world of instant gratification. “Ooh, I like this song! I’ll download it for 59 pence.” Nope! Singles weren’t worth their money. They were a poor investment – almost half the price of buying a full album. So people bought albums. It was an investment. A COMMITMENT! And a lot of the time a gamble. It’s what made it exciting! That’s why vinyl is STILL exciting.
You might not have been that familiar with the artist – or might not had heard of them at all before – but the cover looked nice/interesting/exciting/intriguing and you liked the sound of the song titles, so you put your hand in your pocket.
You took it home. You listened to it. If you were lucky, you absolutely LOVED IT, first time. From the get go. But more likely it caught something in you, but you weren’t sure what. Give it another listen. OK, yep. It’s growing on me. Another listen. Yep, I can hear what’s going on here. Yep. Another listen. Oh, my God. This is ssooo good. Yep. Like it. Another listen. THIS IS THE BEST ALBUM I HAVE HEARD IN MY ENTIRE LIFE!!
Sometimes the first listen (rarely for me). Sometimes the second (more likely) and sometimes five (yep! On occasion). But rarely never at all. On the odd occasion that happened, you sold it on or swapped it. Chances were someone else would like it after all.
These two reviews give a great example of how the vinyl experience was. And how my own experience of evolving into a Simple Minds mega fan transpired.