Sunday, 8 November 2020

Log #215 - The Sparks That Still Burn

Eddy Bamyasi

If you are near my age and grew up watching BBC's Top Of The Pops in the '70s chances are you will only know Sparks from their weird appearance singing This Town Ain't Big Enough For The Both Of Us. This song, most memorable for hyperactive singer Russell Mael's high pitched falsetto and older brother Ron Mael's deadpan keyboard playing and sinister looks to camera, was a #2 UK hit in early 1974.

[That song] was written in A, and by God it'll be sung in A. And no singer is gonna get in my way.

Songwriter Ron Mael  

And that was it? Actually no. Unbelievably this band of brothers was formed in LA in 1967 and are still going today. Their most recent album A Steady Drip, Drip, Drip, released this year, was their 24th! That's pretty impressive for apparent "one hit wonders". Were they actually "one hit wonders" Ed.?

No, they actually had several hit singles and well charting albums (including some recent ones). The band have achieved 6 Top 20 singles in the UK charts (all in the '70s). Ed.

Hearing the band in an album context for the first time I was expecting a series of similarly quirky keyboard songs along the lines of their big hit. Indeed there are a few that recall this vaudeville entertainment, but actually Sparks were more a glam rock band with a drummer and guitarist, than a novelty pop duo, and were fairly close to Sweet or T-Rex, or even Queen or David Bowie at the time. Not surprising considering this album, their 4th, also came out in 1974. 

With the times they moved to more electronic disco sounds later in the decade with songs like Tryouts For The Human Race and The No.1 Song In Heaven.

The Comet Is ComingTrust In The Lifeforce Of The Deep Mystery
Miles DavisJack Johnson
SparksPropaganda
King CrimsonThe Construkction Of Light
The Mahavishnu OrchestraInner Mounting Flame
Return To ForeverRomantic Warrior

Further new entries in the player this week extend my recent interest in jazz, or specifically jazz fusion, inspired by Return To Forever and, especially, The Mahavishnu Orchestra.

I continue to struggle a bit to "get" the The Comet Is Coming album which came near the top of my local record store's Top Albums Of The Year last year. It's extremely busy and the brass is pretty grating. I prefer Miles Davis' Jack Johnson which is much closer to heavy rock with John McLaughlin's gritty guitar to the fore - definitely one of Davis' heaviest albums. 

The Construkction Of Light is also one of the, or the, heaviest King Crimson album(s). I think it's brilliant and it has actually become my favourite out of the band's last 3 albums I reviewed back in log #208, and actually pretty close to one of my favourites overall. Oddly the reviews weren't great at the time and it was certainly considered weaker than the albums that surrounded it, Thrak and The Power To Believe, but for me it has strength in its individual tracks and in its overall "albumness" (a new word Ed. which I've just made up to describe the overall aesthetic of an album where the wholeness does not necessarily equate to the summation of the parts). I'm still working on my King Crimson album ranking and Construkction has potentially moved up two or three places this week.



About The Author

Eddy Bamyasi

Eddy is a music writer from Brighton, England, named after a Can record. Each Sunday he logs and reviews the albums that happen to be in his vintage Pioneer 6-CD magazine changer, amongst other things.

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