Sparks The Island Years on Limited Edition 180g 5LP Box Set
USM are pleased to announce the release of Sparks The Island Years, a collection of the band's four Island studio albums along with a bonus disc of other tracks from the same era. Sparks is an American rock band formed in Los Angeles in 1971 by brothers Ron (keyboards) and Russell Mael (vocals), formed in 1968. Known for their quirky approach to songwriting, Sparks' music is often accompanied by intelligent, sophisticated, and acerbic lyrics, and an idiosyncratic, theatrical stage presence, typified in the contrast between Russell's wide-eyed hyperactive frontman antics and Ron's sedentary scowling. They are also noted for Russell Mael's falsetto voice and Ron Mael's keyboard style.
Kimono My House was released in May 1974 and is considered to be their commercial breakthrough album, featuring their most popular single "This Town Ain't Big Enough For The Both Of Us." Its title is a pun on the song "Come On-a My House," made famous by Rosemary Clooney. Musically, this album represented a shift in sound and a focusing of Ron Mael's songwriting (now the indisputable lead songwriter). It embraced the more pop-oriented side of the Mael brothers' songwriting, which had previously been evident in songs such as "Wonder Girl" and "High C." Now, backed by a new British line-up and boosted by Muff Winwood's simpler production, the songs were more focused. The album slotted in with the current popularity of glam rock – which was dominating the charts – in particular, the more experimental and electronic sound of Roxy Music and David Bowie. Lyrically, the songs remained unusual and humorous. The great number of words filled with pop-culture references, puns and peculiar sexual content sung often in falsetto by Russell Mael set Sparks apart from other groups.
Propaganda is the fourth album by Sparks. The title track is a short a cappella song with multiple overdubs from Russell Mael. The album followed its predecessor Kimono My House by half a year and was a successful album in the UK and US. It reached #9 on the UK Album Chart and #63 on the Billboard 200 (and remains their highest peak in that country). The singles "Never Turn Your Back on Mother Earth" and "Something for the Girl with Everything," while not as successful as those from Kimono My House, both reached the top twenty in the UK reaching No. 13 and No. 17 respectively. In France, "At Home, At Work, At Play" together with "Propaganda" was released as a single instead of "Something for the Girl with Everything". In the US, "Achoo" was released as the album's only single.
The band's fifth album Indiscreet was released in 1975 and was produced by Tony Visconti, with whom the group reunited in 1997 to produce several tracks for their retrospective album Plagiarism. The song "How Are You Getting Home?" was used in Leos Carax's critically acclaimed film Holy Motors. Big Beat was recorded at Mediasound studios, New York in August 1976. The album was the group's first album after breaking away from their English backing band. Instead the Mael Brothers used session musicians and hired Roxy Music contributor (Viva!) Sal Maida on bass, Tuff Darts guitarist Jeffrey Salen and Hilly Boy Michaels on drums. The release was their first for Columbia Records in the US. The album employed a much heavier and harder rock sound.
The Island Years box set will also include a fifth LP featuring a collection of 12 tracks entitled The Rest Of Sparks which compiles b-sides and other relevant audio from the same time period.