Sparks: The Island Years Vinyl Box

Five albums of untrammelled quirkiness from Ron ’n’ Russ.

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This box set comprises Sparks’ four-album output for Island between 1974 and 1976 aka the pre-electro-pop/Moroder years, all pressed on heavyweight 180g vinyl: Kimono My House, Propaganda, Indiscreet and Big Beat.

“No more moaning that your Pomeranian Fifi ate them during the summer of 1974, or that the Great Typhoon of 1975 warped your copies beyond repair,” josh the Mael brothers in the accompanying press release. “Life is good again.”

Indeed it is. You even get a fifth album, an adaptation of 1979 compilation The Best Of Sparks cunningly retitled The Rest Of Sparks, rounding up all of the band’s Island B-sides from the period, most of which have never previously been available on vinyl, while the tracks Looks Aren’t Everything and Intrusion/Confusion make their vinyl debut.

That mid-70s four-album run is as startling as ever. Kimono My House is the home of the hits (This Town Ain’t Big Enough For Both Of Us, Amateur Hour) and showcases Russell’s uncanny yodel and Ron’s idiosyncratic vision. Propaganda, their second from ’74, found Sparks on fire (pun intended) with arguably their greatest song, Something ForThe Girl With Everything, and the best sneeze in pop, Achoo.

Indiscreet brought Weimar Germany, cabaret and showtunes into post-glam Britain with Get In The Swing and Looks Looks Looks, while Big Beat was the attempt to achieve a more American sound. It included a track called I Want To Be Like Everyone Else, a big fat lie if ever there was one.

Paul Lester is the editor of Record Collector. He began freelancing for Melody Maker in the late 80s, and was later made Features Editor. He was a member of the team that launched Uncut Magazine, where he became Deputy Editor. In 2006 he went freelance again and has written for The Guardian, The Times, the Sunday Times, the Telegraph, Classic Rock, Q and the Jewish Chronicle. He has also written books on Oasis, Blur, Pulp, Bjork, The Verve, Gang Of Four, Wire, Lady Gaga, Robbie Williams, the Spice Girls, and Pink.