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Alive and Kicking
(Jim Kerr - vocals, Charlie Burchill - guitars, keyboards) & Co
" A band troubled by lineup and
stylistic changes, which nonetheless achieved worldwide success in the 1980s,
Simple Minds formed in 1978 from the ashes of a Scottish punk band called
Johnny and the Self-Abusers. Singer Jim Kerr and guitarist Charles Burchill's
new band had a new musical direction, taking their name from a line in David
Bowie's Jean Genie and their sound from Roxy Music and Genesis. Simple
Minds debuted with a five-piece ensemble that recorded their first album, 'Life
in a Day'. Their second album, 'Real to Real Cacophony', a dark departure from
their earlier sound that earned them critical acclaim but little commercial
success. After a tour of the UK and Europe and a show in New York, the band
returned to the studio to record their synth-pop album 'Empires and Dance',
which found modest success despite distribution conflicts with Arista that
caused the band to leave the label in 1980. Just as the band was at an impasse,
Peter Gabriel asked them to support his European tour, which led to renewed
interest in the band and a new record deal with Virgin that led to two albums
in 1981, 'Sons and Fascination' and 'Sister Feelings Call'. Steve Lillywhite
(U2, XTC) produced their 1984 album 'Sparkle in the
Rain', which marked a change in the band's style to a more U2-type pop sound. (...) A hastily recorded cut for the
Breakfast Club soundtrack, Don't You (Forget About Me) shot to the top
of the U.S. charts in 1985; despite never appearing on any of their full-length
albums, this is perhaps Simple Minds' best-remembered song. (...) 1989's
'Street Fighting Years' turned off many American fans with its moody and often
political styling, yet was a No. 1 hit in the UK. 1991's 'Real Life' was
another shift in the band's style, this time toward more personal lyric
content. Neither 'Real Life' nor its follow-up tour were very successful
outside of Britain. The group took a break, releasing a singles compilation,
'Glittering Prize', in 1992, which reached No. 1 on the UK charts."
-- Bio, RollingStone.com
½ 1979: Life in a Day
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¾ 1979: Reel To Real Cacophony
"'Real to Real Cacophony' sounds like a proto-type for 'Empires & Dance', their brilliant album that followed in 1980. A little rough around the edges it may be, still there is much to recommend about this album. A handful of these 12 tracks are among the group's best moments. These include Factory, Changeling, Naked Eye and Premonition. The general mood is very dark, cold and arty like much of the music being released around the time. However, what sets 'Real to Real Cacophony' apart from other electronic albums of the time is the impressive addition of funk that really lifts some of these tracks into another level. The baselines are fantastic, quite danceable while Jim Kerr sings with a rhythmical, haunting urgency, he sounds particularly spooked out on Factory, as if he's reciting his lyrics in the dark. This paranoid atmosphere runs throughout the entire album and it only gets boring once, on the rather pointless Cacophony instrumental, otherwise this is all great stuff. "
-- Misfit138, rateyourmusic.com
1980: Empires & Dance
"One of the forgotten albums from the beginning of the decade, 'Empires And Dance' remains the most disturbing piece of work from Simple Minds. Empires And Dance seems to inhabit some post-apocalyptic world where no hope exists; instead there is paranoia and dread, bundled and delivered with plenty of black humor in songs such as the eerie Today I Died Again, or the very sardonic Celebrate. The album is so uncompromisingly bleak that it's a little surprising their record label agreed to release it. It's not an easy album to listen to, nor very comprehensible at first, but it sure stands out from conventional, mainstream pop. So where does this album fit in? 'Empires And Dance' is a work relevant to its time: released as the '70s ended and the '80s began, it captures that period's atmosphere of unease, particularly in the European sphere. The songs came out of the band's experiences while touring Europe at a time of escalating Cold War tension; they speak of the hostility of that environment as well as the prevalent feeling of moral/social decay. There is irony in the title 'Empires And Dance': in the face of world calamity and political intransigence, people just keep partying 'til the bitter end. "
-- Ying Mak, inthe80s.com
¼ 1981: Sons And Fascination / Sister Feelings Call
"It should be no surprise to many that the early work of Simple Minds has aged far better than the breast-beating rock band they were to be come in the late 80's/early 90's period. 'Sons And Fascination/Sister Feelings Call' is an 80-minute opus of electronic music with a decidedly European sound following on neatly from the early Ultravox albums. The American and Love Song gave the group their first hits since I Travel and although this recording is considering more commercially viable than the first three long players - they had just signed to Virgin Records after all - there is a high standard of artistic merit on show. A cursory listen to 70 Cities As Love Brings The Fall is like listening to a space-age elevator opening and closing and the first title track brings an unlikely case for marrying together slap bass, Oriental keyboards and Jim Kerr's gothic vocals. Seeing Out The Angels is an indication of the prettier textures incorporated on their next album whilst Careful In Career proves that they had not totally discarded their post-punk routes. Admittedly the slap bass use becomes wearisome after a while but this is a highly presentable example of what Simple Minds thought the future would sound like from 1982's perspective."
¼ 1982: New Gold Dream 81-82-83-84
"'New Gold Dream (81-82-83-84)' is rightfully considered to be Simple Minds masterpiece as it still stands up as a timeless classic of the 80s with its lavish sounding synthesizers and its flawless production. It took three top quality singles, Someone Somewhere In Summertime, Glittering Prize and Promised You A Miracle to finally put The Simple Minds on the forefront of the Post-Punk music scene after a modest and limited success with three solid albums in the early 80's. Overall this album is much less gloomy than it's predecessors, effectively exploring an eerie and atmospheric genre with songs like Big Sleep, Hunter And The Hunted and the title track. 'New Gold Dream' is a gift from the core of Simple Minds' golden era that extends from their debut in 1979 until 'Sparkle In The Rain'. Unfortunately their career took a dramatic commercial turn since their contribution to the soundtrack of "The Breakfast Club" in 1985 with Don't You Forget About Me!"
-- Sami Alajaji, for Musicfolio.com, 1/04
¾ 1984: Sparkle In The Rain
"Passive 80's fans may not realize that Scottish band Simple Minds recorded a wealth of material before their #1 American single Don't You (Forget About Me) from 1985. 'Sparkle In The Rain' is their 7th album, released in early 1984. After experimenting with a variety of sounds (garage rock to art rock to synthpop), Simple Minds greeted the year with an all-out rock attack. Up On The Catwalk blasts out of the speakers with the twin attack of thunderous drums and rocking...piano! Jim Kerr's vocals are front and center within the first 10 seconds, but it's ultimately the brilliant guitar of Charlie Burchill that sets the listener up for what lies ahead. Speed Your Love To Me is undeniably one of the best songs in the 'Minds repertoire...while many bands with egotistical leaders bury a rhythm section under the vocals, Simple Minds bring out each instrument with thundering clarity. First single Waterfront starts out with a heavy, throbbing baseline before a guttural crash of guitar, drums and keyboards. It's one of the biggest 80's hits in Europe."
-- surelyone, 80sxchange.com
¼ 1985: Once Upon A Time
"Simple Minds' sellout album, released shortly after the success of Don't You (Forget About Me),features big rawk production that doesn't serve them well at all, although it's not enough to completely negate a few able songs."
-- Yahoo Launch
1987: Live In The City of Light
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¾ 1989: Street Fighting Years
"Their first proper new release since the commercial breakthrough of 'Once Upon A Time' and Simple Minds makes a decidedly, noncommercial follow-up. 'Street Fighting Years' is a moody, dark affair. The music is yearning and most of the songs are politically charged lyrically. It was a move that could (and did) bring commercial failure. However, 'Street Fighting Years' is an artistic and elegant album that might lack immediate choruses but draws in the listener. The title track takes some dramatic turns that give the gentle melody added thrust. Take a Step Back pulsates and Wall of Love rocks with conviction. Slower tracks like the brooding Let It All Come Down and a spirited run through the traditional Belfast Child are well done. Other noteworthy tracks include a version of the Peter Gabriel classic Biko and the soaring Mandela Day. It might not have satisfied the band's newly won fans, but 'Street Fighting Years' is an interesting, enjoyable album with some truly lovely moments.
-- Tom Demalon, Allmusic.com
½ 1991: Real Life
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¾ 1992: Glittering Prize: Simple Minds 81/92
"'Glittering Prize' falls short of being a true anthology of Simple Minds, eliminating many great tracks of what I consider Simple Minds' key albums released in the early 80's. This "Best of" collection gives too much weight to the band's later years and commercial hits. In short, 'Glittering Prize' does not appropriately represent Simple Minds' colorful career."
Sami Alajaji, for Musicfolio.com, 1/04
¼ 1995: Good News From the Next World
"On this album, Simple Minds are comprised of just Jim Kerr on lead vocals and Charlie Burchill on guitar and keyboards Many of the songs deal with the theme of gaining a new direction in life and doing some self re-evaluation. Songs like She's a River and Hypnotiseddescribe a muse who has given a lost soul new hope and direction. Great Leap Forward explains that in order to move ahead, one must take chances. Other songs, 7 Deadly Sins, This Time, and My Life illustrate a re-evaluation of things going on in the world today 'Good News From the Next World' contains a positive feel and driving rock beat, it also provides a back to basics feel and not a lot of noise."
-- Melissa Pellegrin, westnet.com
½ 1998: Néapolis
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2001: Neon Lights
"'Neon Lights' is Simple Minds' covers album. Frankly, these projects often serve little purpose beyond announcing that the artists concerned have run out of original ideas. With the Simple Minds' new album of freshly composed material, 'Our Secrets Are the Same', now shelved due to legal complications, the Minds have opted to doff their caps in the direction of the heroes of their youth, such as David Bowie, Lou Reed and The Doors. The arrangements here are slightly dated techno-rock efforts, albeit without the expansive pomp and bluster of their stadium-straddling 1980s heyday. Many of these numbers Echo & The Bunnymen's Bring on the Dancing Horses, Bowie's The Man Who Sold the World are identikit presentations, while electro-rock assaults on Them's Gloria and the Doors Hello I Love You are monotonous and misguided. A very interesting revision of Pete Shelley's Homosapien and a faithful, powerful reading of the Velvet Underground's All Tomorrow's Parties are much better. "
-- Kevin Maidment, amazon.com
¼ 2002: Cry
"Unlike U2 and Depeche Mode, Simple Minds couldn't survive the 90's. They're mainly remembered for their Eighties hit Don't You from the Breakfast Club soundtrack. Following the release of a succession of rather unnoticed and forgettable albums, the band is back with 'Cry', its most satisfying work since 'Street Fighting Years' back in 1989 While not flawless, 'Cry' puts Simple Minds back on track. The album opens with Cry a bewitching single whose keyboards take you back to 'New Gold Dream' with a sound that's trendy again thanks to the new electro wave. Spaceface is a signature catchy track on which Jim Kerr's voice slides perfectly. While New Sunshine Morning doesn't really stand out, the following track, One Step Closer, grips you. The band goes acoustic on the mellow Face in the Sun before reconnecting you with techno-pop through the contagious and fluid Disconnected. Lazy Lately and Sugar aren't icing on the cake but Sleeping Girl is like an old girlfriend from the 80's that you don't want to let go. Cry Again, an acoustic version of Cry, plays it well on the soft side. You won't be chained to Slave Nation but the instrumental The Floating World is a welcome technoirish ending that is reminiscent of the Theme For Great Cities."
-- Ed Dantes, plume-noire.com
½ 2003: Our Secrets Are The Same
"'Our Secrets Are The Same' is Jim Kerr and Charlie Burchill's final album for Virgin that was lost in a Myopia of politics, leakage and dampened spirits. Originally to be released in 2000, the duo hit a number of roadblocks to release with their label Brass. Promo people in the meantime had circulated prospect copies of the work to few people, trying to scope out what they could use as a single. One uncaring spanish DJ decided to play the album on his shows to many fans' delight, who promptly converted it to Mp3's and digital distribution of the unfinished tapes made their way round the world. With the passage of time, wounds healed, the album recording was completed and the band is on an upswing. The finished artistic vision sees the light of disc, though the artists have felt like their hands were tied all the way, as depicted on the cover art of the disc."
2005: Black & White 050505
Tracklisting: 01.Stay Visible 02.Home 03.Stranger 04.Different World 05.Underneath the Ice 06.The Jeweller (Part 2) 07.Black and White 08.Kiss the Ground 09.Dolphins
"'You love The Killers! You love Bloc Party!' shriek the marketing men, 'Now hear the band that started it all - Simple Minds.' To be fair, that's not too far off the mark and doesn't require a massive leap of imagination. Trouble is, despite their protestations to the contrary, the 2005 incarnation of Simple Minds doesn't stand up particularly well to the band in its mid-1980s pomp. There's plenty of chest-beating and bluster on these nine new songs but not enough decent tunes. Too much descends into plodding, heard-it-all-before boredom. They start promisingly enough though with the stadium rock of Stay Visible and punch their weight. And The Jeweller (Part 2) is the band at its poppiest but lacks much substance. Closing track Dolphins, with its nod to Kraftwerk, is perhaps the most interesting thing here. Shame, really. I always like rooting for the underdogs."
-- Steve Harnell, Bristol Evening Post, 8/05
¾ 2009: Graffiti Soul
Tracklisting: 1. Moscow Underground 2. Rockets 3. Stars Will Lead The Way 4. Light Travels 5. Kiss & Fly 6. Graffiti Soul 7. Blood Type "O" 8. This Is It - Bonus Tracks 1. Shadows & Light 2. Rockin' In The Free World
"Just stick to the gardening, lads! No band in the last 30 years has done more to inflict grievous harm on its own body of work by refusing to call it a fucking day than Simple Minds. Despite initially turning in a wheelbarrow full of astounding albums theyve been air-brushed from critical history because of two decades of fly-blown dung such as Mandela Day. To be fair, this is easily the best thing theyve done since the mid-80s and Rockets and Moscow Underground have some of that epic post-punk/new-wave disco spirit of yore, but its still not enough. If Simple Minds had stopped the second Dont You (Forget About Me) was released then theyd still be remembered as a truly great band. As it is, this is not enough on its own to restore their tarnished reputation."
-- John Doran, nme.com, 5/09
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