I remember, some time ago, having a discussion with some friends as to when it was, exactly, that Simple Minds had “sold out”. The most common opinion was during the stadium filling Once Upon A Time period, though one or two voices were arguing that it was when they made New Gold Dream. My opinion – a lone voice in the wilderness, it seemed – was this: they never sold out. They simply continued to make great pop song after great pop song. It’s merely that some of those songs were always going to sound more suited to stadiums. If you think about it though, while that whole “stadium band” was always a constant criticism of theirs circa 1985, if you go back to the band’s debut, Life In A Day, there is a sweeping undercurrent of arena-filling singalongs even then.
New Gold Dream is probably my favourite of the Glaswegian group’s releases though, so it’s fascinating to hear what is essentially a new version of that record, having been put to tape just a few miles from their home city, in the spectacular surroundings of Paisley Abbey. It’s ostensibly a “live” album without the audience, which I always find a little odd, but there’s no denying that Simple Minds are a real powerhouse of a performing band and that hits straight away with the opening track, the dazzling single that was ‘Someone Somewhere In Summertime‘. Astonishingly, some 41 years later, not only does the song sound as vibrant as ever, but the nakedness of the melody is perhaps even more striking here than on its original 7″ single release all those years ago. This is something I was not anticipating at all!
Further singles ‘Glittering Prize‘ and ‘Promised You A Miracle‘ achieve the same heights, their sound even more pared down, revealing such a depth to their souls that it makes me feel all fuzzy inside. For a moment, I’m 12 years old again. But amazingly, it’s the album tracks that really hit home what a fantastic group of musicians Simple Minds are. It’s like they’ve bottled 1982 but sprinkled it with magic dust to bring it bang up to date. ‘Colours Fly And Catherine Wheel‘ is just irresistible here, and where some singers from that period have cracked voices now – heck, I’ve even heard one or two (without mentioning any names) who sound more like Alvin and the Chipmunks these days – Jim Kerr‘s remarkable voice remains as strong as ever, arguably even better than in their heyday.
Simple Minds, it could be argued here, have actually delivered that miracle they promised us. A timely reminder of just how great they can be. It flies by and leaves you wanting more, and what more can you ask for, really?