|SPARKS - NO. ONE IN HEAVEN
REVIEW BY MARTIN TRUKSA
Sparks : Number 1 In Heaven (Virgin Records) 1979 :-
Late in 1979, Ron and Russell Mael teamed up with then-molten-hot Italian producer Giorgio Moroder and reinvented themselves as a synth duo. Russell Mael made an important announcement to the music press:- Sparks had abandoned guitars FOREVER. This metamorphosis proved to be short-lived, however, as a few years later, Ron and Russell were again working with a guitar-based rock band.
'No. One In Heaven' made it to number 73 in the UK charts and stayed in the Top 100 for just one week. One could be forgiven, therefore, for concluding that the album isn't especially good. This is clearly not the case. In fact, not only is 'No. One In Heaven' an astonishingly good album, it is probably one of the most significant L.P. releases of the entire 1970s! Numerous bands including Depeche Mode, New Order and Pet Shop Boys have cited this album as a major influence.
Three singles were culled from the album: 'Number One Song In Heaven', 'Beat The Clock' and 'Tryouts For The Human Race'. All the singles were released in coloured vinyl / picture disc, 12" single format.
Believe it or not, 'Tryouts For the Human Race' is narrated by live sperm ("Tryouts for the human race, from Burlington to Bonn, ah, we are a quarter billion strong"). The synthesised electronic pulses at the start of the song actually sound like ejaculating sperm!
'La Dolce Vita' starts with the sound of synthesised choirs drifting in and out (the effect is truly mesmerising), and the main body of the song consists of Russell singing passionately about 'gold-digging women', against a glorious synthesised backdrop.
'My Other Voice' begins with a chorus of electronic cymbals, and then the 'first' of Russell's two voices sings "With my other voice I can destroy this room. I'll wrap my voice around you and I'll drag you everywhere".
'Number One Song In Heaven' is the highlight of the album. The first half of the song is slow and angelic sounding and is separated from the faster, hypnotic second half by an arresting drum break. Russell's voice beams against a wall of pulsing synthesisers, "If you should die while crossing the street, the song that you'll hear, I guarantee. It's number one, all over heaven". Notice the sequenced bass line and how the filter sweeps change the sound of the synthesisers.
'No. One In Heaven' is a truly groundbreaking album and no CD collection is complete without it. Just hearing it is like a message from the future, but hearing it in 1978? It must have caused jaws to collectively drop around the world.
For lyrics to Sparks 'No One In Heaven', please click on the highlighted link on the left.
NO 1 IN HEAVEN : Tryouts For The Human Race, Acadamy Award Performance, La Dolce Vita, Beat The Clock, My Other Voice, Number One Song In Heaven
Sparks CD : No One In Heaven