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the vinyl collection (79,84) reviews

The Vinyl Collection (79,84)

record collector

Perhaps it was their prodigious work ethic or maybe the infectious, restless energy that characterised the closing chapters of the 70s, but few bands can claim to shown such marked development across seven albums and just five years as Simple Minds. Packaged together on 180g vinyl, these seven remastered albums - from Life In A Day, their rockier, upbeat debut, to the commercial breakthrough of Sparkle In The Rain - there's a relentless focus on moving things forward across these 66 tracks.

Life In A Day peaked at UK No 30 and yielded a modest hit single in the set's title track. While frontman Jim Kerr latterly claimed John Leckie's production lacked bite, the band may have simply have found the transition from stage - where they were already building a formidable live reputation - to the less forgiving climate of the studio hard work. Just seven months after that first release, their second, Real To Real Cacophony, took a darker, more experimental turn, during its influences from the European dance sounds that were influencing a generation of synth pop pioneers.

The following year's Empires And Dance continued that theme with a greater focus on sequencing and texture but again failed to do much business, leading to Arista calling timing on the relationship. Virgin were the beneficiaries and were rewarded almost instantly with a couple of htis that flirted with the bottom end of the UK Top 50. August 1981's Love Song, in particular, established itself as an early signature single and were finally rewarded with a Top 10 placing when reissued in 1992 to promote the band's first greatest hits collection. It was culled from that year's Sons And Fascination and Sister Feelings Call, the latter initially included as a limited edition bonus disc but eventually released as an album in its own right. It is afforded that status in this set. New producer Steve Hillage was able to draw out a richer, warmer sound from the band, which played well with the ever-increasing crowds they were being exposed to on touring circuits such as a run as Peter Gabriel's support act.

Finally 1982's New Gold Dream (81,82,83,84), released in September of that year on the back of two bona-fide chart successes in Promised You A Miracle and Glittering Prize, was the smash that had thus far eluded them. This was an out-and-out pop album, peaking at UK No 3 and setting them on a course for stadium-level stardom as the decade unfolded. Producer Pete Walsh effortlessly channeled their experimental edge into a more melodic frame that did well here and abroad. The last LP in this collection, Sparkle In The Rain, was created on the back of a relentless touring schedule and saw the emergence of their signature throbbing synth, heavy bass and piano flourishes that were to typify their output in the years ahead. When innovation took a back seat the commercial returns for this distinctive formula would sustain a career that endures to this day. This handsome package suggests what might have played out differently along the way but demonstrates why the determined course they were set on was blessed with a spark of brilliance.

Mark Elliott
Record Collector, October 2015

The Vinyl Collection (79,84)

prog magazine
So Kerr and co were never prog? Remind yourself of their first five albums.

It says something about the huge amount of opprobrium that Simple Minds earned during their 80s heyday as major arena rock stalwarts that the case for the Scottish veteran's status as wielders of a progressive mindest still needs to be made. The Vinyl Collection contains all you need to know: these seven remastered albums tell the story of the band's first five years, during which they created an admirable body of adventurous, eclectic and genuinely groundbreaking music.

Exhibiting a similar ability to assimilate influences from prog, art rock and all manner of unconventional sources, the first five Simple Minds albums remain compelling. Life In A Day, the feisty debut, is a sustained rush of wide-eyed experimentation and obtuse melodic power, with songs like the the title track and celebrated single Chelsea Girl echoing the like-minded explorations of Magazine, Bill Nelson and The Associates while establishing a distinct personality for a still very young band. Also released in 1979, Real To Real Cacophony earned comparisons with the genre-mangling likes of PIL's Metal Box and Wire's 154 with an intricate but engaging mixture of oddball arrangements and subtly incisive tunes. This wonderfully perverse and eclectic approach continued through the glorious Empires And Dance - both Simple Minds' strangest and most affecting work of all; an often austere byt always vibrant collection of skewed art rock that, quarter of a century on, sounds even less like the work of a band that would end up churning out execrable twaddle like Belfast Child a few short years later. Originally released in tandem, Sons And Fascination and Sister Feelings Call represent the final blossoming of the Scots' creative urges. Perhaps surprisingly, the lbums also heralded Simple Minds' official arrival at the pointy end of the UK album charts, as songs like The American and Sweat In Bullet demonstrated the ongoing refinement of frontman Jim Kerr's songwriting skills via the prog-friendly credentials brough to bear by the presence of producer Steve Hillage. From that moment on, Simple Minds were heading upwards at an extraordinary rate. 1982's New Gold Dream (81,82,83,84) was the band's first bona-fide pop record, and one that encapsulates the sound and ambition of that era, but it lacks the feverish artistry of its predecessors. By the time the largely likeable Sparkle In The Rain emerged in 1984, Simple Minds were chipping away at their reputation by seeming to grasp for Bono's coat-tails, but despite the bloated horrors that followed, the legacy contained on these 14 sides of plastic remains an enduring one.

Dom Lawson
Prog Magazine, October 2015

The Vinyl Collection (79,84)

Glasgow's post-punk stadium-botherers get the deluxe treatment.

It happens infrequently, but you still meet people who react with scepticism when told that Simple Minds were once pretty much the coolest band in the world. THe evidence now comes in a handy box. THe first seven albums, the pick being Sister Feelings Call, Empires And Dance and New Gold Dream (81,82,83,84) are collected here on heavyweight vinyl. The early Minds found a nexus between futurism, Krautrock and industrial dance, Derek Forbes's sumptuous bass and Charlie Burchill's elegant guitar providing a shimming context for the otherworldiness and clear-eyed vision of the young Jim Kerr. Once Upon A Time, the 1985 album that spawned Alive And Kicking is their post-sharkjump blockbuser, but hindsight its crimes (primarily the abandonment of subtlety) diminish, and the distance between its better moments (Ghostdancing) and the band's post-punk heights, represented on the 5CD reissue by a remix of Promised You A Miracle, contrasts.

Simon Price
Q, October 2015

The Vinyl Collection (79,84)


From Life In A Day to Sparkle In The Rain, the Glasgow art-rock magi's first seven albums get remastered on heavy vinyl and boxed up as a festive glitterping prize. Virtuosity and pop thrills combine on an epic scale.

Mojo, October 2015