TBT Album Review / by Jon Whittaker

This morning I found myself listening to an album I have loved since it came out many years ago. I decided to make this blog, not just only about live shots, but about music as well. Thats why you are here on my site anyways. So why not give a little more. So heres a little extra. Throw back album reviews (and a little history of the time as well). The goal here is to either make you go pull out that old record and give it a fresh listen, or to make you curious enough to seek it out and give it a shot. So today, one of my all time favorites that never got the notoriety that it deserves. And I kinda blame U2 a little for it.

1987! Andy Warhol just passed away, to the hail of the Tories Thatcher wins her 3rd term, the glory of the conservative Right wings Reagan was still in office with Bush Sr. Gas was a skyrocketing 95 cents a gallon! Wartime gestapo, Klaus Barbie was sentenced and Ollie North was busy talking to a Congressional inquiry. Fatal Attraction and Platoon were the box office smashes, the average household income was $26,000, and the National U.S. debt was a mere 2346.1 billion (Its now somewhere around 13 TRILLION!) In music, the Billboard chart toppers were the highly over produced hits of George Michaels I Want Your Sex, Bangles Walk Like an Egyptian, Wang Chungs Everybody Have Fun Tonight, Michael Jacksons Bad, Bon Jovis Dead or Alive, Prince with You Got The Look, and U2 was destroying with their Joshua Tree singles and tour.
Somewhere in all of this, a live album almost went unnoticed in the American charts. Simple Minds had released their Live In The City Of Lights. While it got much attention in the UK, it was still overshadowed by Bono and the boys barrage of major hits in the US. It was the Irish U2 putting the Glasgow, Scotland boys against the ropes and then KO'd them for the final count. Sadly, the Simple Minds live album was carried off the stage in the U.S. and all but forgotten.
But alas, it still exists. Via a re-release on CD years later, was a little breath of life in to an amazing album. 

This was a sold out, arena, world tour. Recorded by the brilliance of Manor Mobile on the Once Upon a Time Tour in August of 1986 over two nights at le Zenith in Paris, France. These 2 nights found this band at their peak! A flawless performance of the best of their catalog to that date. Jim Kerr's vocals, spontaneity, and enthusiasm put Bono's staged performance, at the time, to shame.  With Robin Clark in tow for backing vocals, John Giblins strong bass lines, Mel Gaynor playing drums tighter than anyone, and the unmistakable signature guitar licks of longtime founding member Charlie Burchill. Simple Minds could do no wrong on these two nights of recording with this lineup.
The double disc (or double vinyl) starts off with Charlies, now Edge-esque, guitar riff for Ghostdancing. Jim Kerr jumps in strong with "Cities, buildings falling down, satellites come crashing down..." and doesnt let up until the final note of the last song, New Gold Dreams.  The flow of the album is near flawless. It becomes a journey of the bands history through their best. I say near flawless only because their second monster hit, Alive and Kicking, lacks any sort of umph mid way through the album. Its sadly like a speed bump. I feel this way only because the original studio version is way over produced and the song itself I always felt was industry forced. As well, I have always felt that between that song being the "too pushed track" and U2 being the golden child at the time is what killed Simple Minds upward stride. Aside from that speed bump in the double album, the rest is flawless. The sound quality is still not matched by any new technology of any recorded live performance. The sound is so crisp on Once Upon a Time/Book of Brilliant Things that you truly feel like you are there. The bouncing bass line on Waterfront will make your pulse jump a little and you can feel the energy of the crowd with every bass string thats thumped. And Robin Clark's backing vocals are like sonic razor blades tearing out of your speakers throughout the whole album. Most of the tracks are very timeless and the feeling doesnt feel dated at all.
Without a doubt, one of the best live recordings ever made and to this day, still something I highly enjoy listening to every time I pop it in to the cd player.

side note- If you know me then you already know how I feel about U2. I do believe timing is everything in this silly business. I believe Simple Minds simply got duped by U2's timing. Success creates an amazing momentum. A kick in the nuts will kill anyone's momentum.  Not that I think that either is better than the other. I just always seem to favor the underdog a little more.