Want List: Sparks Push The Right Monk Buttons With Twin Packages

Sparks just dropped word yesterday of their new catalog projects

While I was busy yesterday extolling the merits of the “1999” BSOG edition, my personal device alerted me that Sparks have done further curation of their formidable back catalog once more. This time it’s an album we already know and love that getting the DLX RM treatment as well as a newly compiled career retrospective looking back on a half-century of work. Formidable!

Universal ‎| 5xCD | 2013 | UK |  LBRBOX6

The last time they compiled a career retrospective, it was six years ago with the hefty “New Music For Amnesiacs: The Ultimate Collection” 5xCD boxed set from UMG that included:

• 64 page hardback book containing 4 CDs.
• A4 Certificate of Authenticity
• A2 Poster
• Vellum envelope containing:
-2 replica tickets
-4 A4 black and white prints
-4 A4 colour prints
• Brown paper envelope with replica address sticker containing-3 A4 black and white proof sheets
• Souvenir CD in card wallet
• Laminated AAA pass
• Lanyard with plastic snap lock
• Car window sticker
• Button badge

Very posh…and very co$tly. It sold for three figures as I recall, though it’s trading hands for about double the initial cost now. There were a handful of rarities, but the cost placed it out of my sights. This time, the first Sparks logo [they began their career under the name Haflneslon]  from their sophomore album “A Woofer In Tweeter’s Clothing” has been dusted off and re-used for the new compilation “Past Tense: The Best Of Sparks.”

Go for the 3xCD version!

Sparks: Past Tense – The Best of Sparks US 3xCD [2019]

Disc One

  1. Computer Girl
  2. Wonder Girl
  3. (No More) Mr. Nice Guys
  4. Girl from Germany
  5. Beaver O’Lindy
  6. This Town Ain’t Big Enough for Both of Us
  7. Amateur Hour
  8. Here In Heaven
  9. Never Turn Your Back On Mother Earth
  10. Something for the Girl With Everything
  11. Achoo
  12. Get in the Swing
  13. In The Future
  14. Looks, Looks, Looks
  15. I Want To Hold Your Hand
  16. Big Boy
  17. I Bought The Mississippi River
  18. Occupation
  19. Those Mysteries
  20. Tryouts for the Human Race
  21. Beat the Clock

Disc Two

  1. The Number One Song in Heaven
  2. When I’m With You
  3. Tips for Teens
  4. Funny Face
  5. Angst in My Pants
  6. I Predict
  7. Sherlock Holmes
  8. Cool Places (with Jane Wiedlin)
  9. Popularity
  10. I Wish I Looked A Little Better
  11. With All My Might
  12. Change
  13. Music That You Can Dance To
  14. So Important
  15. Singing In The Shower (with Les Rita Mitsouko)
  16. National Crime Awareness Week (Psycho Cut)
  17. When Do I Get to Sing ‘My Way’
  18. (When I Kiss You) I Hear Charlie Parker Playing – Radio Edit
  19. Let’s Go Surfing

Disc Three

  1. Pulling Rabbits Out Of A Hat
  2. The Calm Before The Storm
  3. It’s A Knockoff
  4. The Rhythm Thief
  5. My Baby’s Taking Me Home
  6. Suburban Homeboy
  7. Dick Around
  8. Perfume
  9. Islington N1
  10. Good Morning
  11. Lighten Up, Morrissey
  12. Two Hands, One Mouth
  13. Piss Off (Sparks original demo)
  14. Johnny Delusional (FFS)
  15. Missionary Position
  16. Edith Piaf (Said It Better Than Me)
  17. I Wish You Were Fun
  18. Check Out Time 11AM

This time there were a few more rarities, and the set started off with the earliest known Sparks recording, “Computer Girl,” which had only been released on 2006 as a bonus CD in a Japanese book on the band. Their great single with Les Rita Mitsouko is rightly included, and the set has a reach going all the way to their last opus, “Hippopotamus,” and beyond. Disc three had the rare  track “IslingtonN1” which was only on a 2008 CD5 given to people who bought all 21 tickets for the Complete Sparks Residency in England; 21 concerts in 21 nights when they played all 21 of their albums in order. Suck on that, Kraftwerk!

I am happy to see that even their FFS period was covered on this collection, but it even encompassed the 7″ only A-side released in late 2017; “Check Out Time 11 AM.” Though I was crestfallen to see that the same courtesy was not extended to “Now You’ve Earned The Right To Be A Dick” which was a non-LP A-side on shaped picture disc only from early last year that would have probably benefitted much in fidelity from its leap from pic disc to CD.

It’s released on November 8, 2019 in a trio of formats: 2xCD, 3xCD, and 3xLP. The 2xCD with 39 songs is for wimps but cheap at $12.99. The 3xLP is cheap enough as these things go at $36.99, but it only had a subset of the material with just 27 cuts. The 3xCD is the best value with 58 tunes for the low, low price of just $15.99!! A 16-page booklet accompanies the music. Any neophytes seeking to wet their metaphoric toes in the dazzling world of Sparks should do well to start there.


Those demos on disc 3 have my name on them!

Sparks: Gratuitous Sax + Senseless Violins US 3xCD [2019]

Disc One – Album

  1. Gratuitous Sax
  2. When Do I Get To Sing “My Way”
  3. (When I Kiss You) I Hear Charlie Parker Playing
  4. Frankly, Scarlett, I Don’t Give A Damn
  5. I Thought I Told You To Wait In The Car
  6. Hear No Evil, See No Evil, Speak No Evil
  7. Now That I Own The BBC
  8. Tsui Hark
  9. The Ghost Of Liberace
  10. Let’s Go Surfing
  11. Senseless Violins

Disc Two – Mixes, B-sides, and versions

  1. National Crime Awareness Week (Complete Psycho) produced by Finiflex
  2. When Do I Get To Sing “My Way” (The Grid Radio Edit) Remixed by The Grid
  3. (When I Kiss You) I Hear Charlie Parker Playing [Bernard Butler’s Fashionable World Of Fashion Mix]remixed by Bernard Butler
  4. Now That I Own The BBC (Live BBC Acoustic Version)
  5. When Do I Get To Sing “My Way” (Vince Clarke Remix)
  6. She’s An Anchorman
  7. Little Drummer Boy Unreleased studio version
  8. Beat The Clock (Live in Concert)Live at Shepherds Bush Empire, London. 17 November 1994
  9. National Crime Awareness Week (13 Minutes In Heaven) produced by Finiflex
  10. When Do I Get To Sing “My Way” (Sticks & Stones Remix) remixed by Keith Marantz & DavidLongoria at The Steamroom
  11. (When I Kiss You) I Hear Charlie Parker Playing [The Beatmasters’ Full-Blown Dub] Remixed by The Beatmasters
  12. Now That I Own The BBC (Motiv 8 Extended Vocal Mix) remixed by Motiv 8
  13. When Do I Get To Sing “My Way” (Pro-Gress Mix) Remix & additional production by Pro-Gress for D.E.F.
  14. National Crime Awareness Week (The Janet Leigh Mix) remixed by Steve Bates

Disc Three – Unreleased demos

  1. Where Did I Leave My Halo?
  2. She’s Beautiful (So What)
  3. Mid-Atlantic
  4. The Farmer’s Daugher
  5. This Angry Young Man Ain’t Angry No More
  6. Bob Hope
  7. She’s An Anchorman (Demo)
  8. Love Can Conquer All
  9. That’s What I Call Paradise
  10. This Angry Young Man Ain’t Angry No More (Ron Vocal Version)
  11. Mid-Atlantic (Ron Vocal Version)
  12. That’s Entertainment (feat. Les Bohem)
  13. Katharine Hepburn (vocals by Christi Haydon)
  14. Titanic (vocals by Christi Haydon)
  15. Othello (vocals by Christi Haydon)
  16. Holiday
  17. Boris The Spider

We were just re-visiting the wonders of the “Gratuitous Sax + Senseless Violins” album two months ago and were pleased by its mix of barbed wit, insight, and pathos. The album gave Sparks a European hit in their third decade and provided a leg up for the band to make very impressive late-in-the-game conceptual leaps following it. Now the gaze has been turned on it again 25 years later with a plethora of tantalizing goods added to the program.

Of course, we gravitate to the 3xCD version as it had the most music in the format of our choice. The second CD was a selection of B-sides, versions and remixes. Truth be told, this could have been another two to three discs in itself. It was the 90s. I don’t have any singles from this album, but am open to hearing this material. The B-sides will surely be more to my liking than the excessive dance porn of the era. I’m guessing that the most musical of the remixes probably figured here.

Christi Haydon

But the third CD has me drooling. And I ain’t fooling. It’s all unreleased demos of songs written during this period but ultimately not included on the album. And Ron Mael was the lead voice on some of these. Tracks 13-15 are from the unreleased Christi Haydon EP the Maels produced that never got released. Ms. Haydon was best known as the photographer of the “pesky photog” tabloid shots on the album cover that amused to no end. All of this and an early Who cover to boot! The song that I really have to hear badly is “Bob Hope.” I really am curious to hear what Ron did with the subject matter as I have a “difficult” relationship with the famed comic.

Ron and Russell have written the liner notes in the 20 page booklet and I’m sure this will be something to hear. Given that I paid $1.00 on La La in 2006 for my copy of this album, I am all too willing to re-purchase it in this executive version with all of the cash going to the artistes. As usual, a granular selection of formats are on offer as the album is released on November 15, 2019 in a variety of CD/vinyl formats. The main ones are: black LP $24.99, yellow LP + 2xCD [discs 2-3] for $36.99, and the Monk-tastic 3xCD for $18.99. I may pass on the other collection but the demos on this one are calling my name like sirens. There are a potentially bewildering selection of bundles so I’ll leave it to you to find your own way in the Official Sparks Webstore here.

– 30 –

About postpunkmonk

graphic design | software UI design | remastering vinyl • record collector • satire • non-fiction
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14 Responses to Want List: Sparks Push The Right Monk Buttons With Twin Packages

  1. diskojoe says:

    Thanks for the news, Monk. I think I’ll pick up at least the 3 CD version of the best of. Also, what is your “difficult relationship” with Bob “He’s still dead” Hope? Another thing is that I noticed that you don’t have a cel phone, just like me. Do you get any guff from friends about it? Every time I go to my break room @ work, everybody’s just staring @ screens.

    Like

    • postpunkmonk says:

      diskojoe – I don’t have any friends.

      No, the friends I have I keep in contact with via email, usually. The occasional facetime session, or Messages. I have an iPad and an iPod Touch. These are like a smartphone with much less cost and no crippling bills. Since I have rarely used the phone post-adolescence, I don’t miss it. Bob Hope was the quintessence of smug complacency masquerading as comedy.

      I’ve heard tales of the earlier, zingier Hope who was considered “edgy” for his time, but the guy I grew up with from the 60s onward was a poster-boy for everything that was wrong with American comedy in the second half of the 20th century. I absolutely loved the “Century Of Hope” strip by Drew and Josh Alan Friedman in the book “Any Similarity To Persons Living Or Dead Is Purely Coincidental.” That, in a nutshell, was how I feel about Bob Hope.

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      • diskojoe says:

        What happened to Bob Hope also happened to comics that we grew up with, like Eddie Murphy, Robin Williams & Steve Martin. They were once “edgy” & “hip”, but all three ended up making family-friendly movies that were as banal as Hope’s later efforts.

        Woody Allen was a fan of Hope, as evidenced by that SCTV skit that had them attempting to make a movie together (Dave Thomas & Dave Moranis were great in their roles)

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        • That Hope & Allen skit on SCTV was just … magnificent comedy.

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          • postpunkmonk says:

            chasinvictoria – I’m with you and diskojoe! That “Play It Again, Bob” sketch was pure comedy genius that worked on multiple levels! Dave Thomas has talked about how his Hope impersonation came from an ambiguous place where he felt a mixture of admiration as well as knocking the complacent old guard off of their pedestals.

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        • postpunkmonk says:

          diskojoe – I was never a fan of Murphy (smug, homophobic), Williams (cocaine in human form), or Martin (I felt his surrealism was a bad reaction to the post-Watergate zeitgeist). And really, I’m not much for comedians in general. The only ones I ever went to see were Sandra Bernhard, Judy Tenuta, and Emo Philips. And I question my judgment now. But your observation on how comedian’s careers arc’s play out over time is spot on!

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  2. critterjams says:

    dude. that 3rd disc on Gratuitous Sax O.o

    (I have no clue what any of those songs are but the prospect of an entire CD full of unreleased Sparks stuff leaves me drooling)

    Like

    • postpunkmonk says:

      critterjams – You and me, both! Just scope the titles! You know it won’t be a waste of our time. The Maels surely built a balanced program of potential hit material salted with their more challenging work in the hopes of selling a few records and upping their critical status – and it worked. But I am imagining more material like the complex feelings embodied in a song like “I Thought I Told You To Stay In The Car” that were probably tabled out of commercial concerns.

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  3. Tim says:

    Thanks for the post, I don’t follow Sparks online like you do and while the hits thing isn’t for me, the uberdeluxe of my favorite album IS.

    The price is really good – 3 cds for under 20 bucks!
    I don’t buy in the quantity that I used to but recently snagged a Joan as Police Woman anthology that was similarly priced. If you don’t know her you should. I found her via the mashups community, learned that she did some work with David Sylvian and was generally hooked.
    It’s a pity that her project with David Sylvian (an entire collaborative album) appears to be dead.

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  4. Ordered! After your review of Gratuitous Sax I went and re-listened to the album for the first time in decades and was absolutely thrilled that it was even better than I remembered it. A much-needed and updated 3CD physical copy? Yes please and thank you!

    Although I normally eschew “greatest hits” packages from artists whose career I take much interest in, I also went for this highly-affordable 3CD version of the hits package, as it has a few tracks from Sparks albums I don’t yet own, plus more than enough rarities et al to make it highly appealing. A hits package from long ago was my gateway drug to The Monochrome Set after all, and that’s worked out incredibly swell for me!

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    • postpunkmonk says:

      chasinvictoria – Well, yeah. I don’t especially need a 3xCD greatest hits for a band that I want every album from, but the cost here was minimal. And there’s a few things that were scarce. As for GSSV, it does play stronger than memory would account for. When the baseline tracks were on par with PSB and the 3-4 stunners were like nothing else, that’s pretty compelling at the end of the day.

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  5. PS. Remember that incredible concert of theirs we saw in Atlanta? I was so pleased that early 80s musical god Murray Attaway was there as well … it raised my already-high esteem for him all the higher that he would appreciate Sparks as much as we!

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