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Real Life - Simple Minds

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Genre: Indie Rock & Punk - New Wave / Artist: Simple Minds / Original recording reissued / Audio CD released 2003-01-06 at Virgin

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      10.09.2010 20:42
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      Classic Simple Minds.

      Real Life is the ninth studio album by Scottish band Simple Minds. Released in 1991, this album saw the departure of long standing keyboard player, Mick MacNeil, who despite deciding after 12 years that he wanted to do some other things with his life, didn't actually say he was quitting. Frontman Jim Kerr had hoped that Mick would maybe get bored and return to the band, but he didn't, and therefore veteran session musician Peter Vitesse was drafted in to play on the album.
      Peter was probably best known for his work with Peter Gabriel and Kate Bush and slotted into MacNeil's vacant spot with such ease, that if I had not known otherwise, I would not have thought any changes had taken place.

      So, along with Jim Kerr and fellow members: guitarist and co-songwriter Charlie Burchill, drummer Mel Gaynor and bass courtesy of Malcolm Foster (Derek Forbes having departed earlier), there was no discernable change to the band's sound, even though Kerr admitted at the time it was a little scary writing songs without MacNeil.

      Tracks :-

      1 Real Life
      2 See the Lights
      3 Let There Be Love
      4 Woman
      5 Stand By Love
      6 African Skies
      7 Let the Children Speak
      8 Ghostrider
      9 Banging on the Door
      10 Travelling Man
      11 Rivers of Ice
      12 When Two Worlds Collide

      I have been a fan of Simple Minds since 1981, with their New Gold Dream album of 1982 being my favourite. The band's big sound which mixes pounding drums and bass with melodic guitar and keyboards, rounded off with Kerr's unique and at times haunting vocals, is once again evident here on Real Life. Simple Minds have a powerful sound which has worked particularly well on their anthemic tracks over the years.
      Indeed there is plenty on Real Life for the longstanding fans to enjoy, with some of the tracks sounding reminiscent of some of their earlier work from albums such as 'New Gold Dream' and 'Sparkle In The Rain'. The production from Steve Lipson is top notch, resulting in an album which sounds as big as its predecessors without sounding over produced or pompous.

      Title track 'Real Life' is the ideal opening track as it slowly builds and paves the way for what is to follow. "Real life's the only life, what's it all about " sings Kerr. This title track providing some of the thoughts behind this album. Although the album wasn't meant to have a theme as such, the title track serves as something of a keynote as it tells of a London girl who flies to New York, the "land of her dreams". She lives her life in a day by getting married, but unfortuantely ends up murdered, all inside 24 hours.
      Dreams are something that have featured a lot with Simple Minds and have usually up until 'Real Life' been used in a positive sense. However, as the title track shows, things are somewhat different here as the band touch upon the fact that dreams are not always attainable.

      The second track, broken love song 'See The Lights' opens with an intricate little melody before the powerfully strong drums and bass pick up the rhythm. This track is classic Simple Minds with its catchy hook and is a favourite of mine. Kerr's vocals begin as a lower register whisper, then slowly rise as the song builds and he declares he is "too proud to cry".
      From 'See The Lights' the tempo then slows for 'Let There Be Love' which was a top 10 hit for the band when released as a single. It is another song of anthemic proportions with an unforgettable melody. Although this is a slow track, once again Kerr sings the opening verse in a quiet almost whisper-like vocal, before building up for the strong chorus. He manages to convey the emotion in the song by adjusting his vocals to give the required effect and it works well.

      Speaking of vocals, it is worth mentioning Carol Kenyon, who provides some quality backing vocals on this album. She has worked with many artists from Van Morrison and Pink Floyd to Pet Shop Boys and Kylie Minogue, although I best remember her for her vocals on Heaven 17's 'Temptation' back in the early 80's. She compliments Kerr's unique sound really well here.

      A sound Simple Minds have mastered over the years is 'atmospheric'. early Simple Minds tracks were built around mystic atmospheres and the ending of 'Woman' is particularly haunting.
      Although this album features songs which are structured differently to their earlier work, it still retains a fair amount of those atmospheric goosebump moments, which is the reason I enjoy listening to it so much.
      Whilst part of it feels like a throwback to the earlier Simple Minds albums I love, it also features some new sounds to appreciate. Tracks such as 'See The Lights', 'Travelling Man' and ' Let The Children Speak' all remind me of how I came to love this band, whilst 'Stand By Love' for example, has all those qualities but also encompasses a more 90's feel, with a certain 'pop-like' quality that guarantees your feet will be tapping. More newer sounding tracks follow with 'Banging On The Door' and 'Two Worlds Collide'. The former being one of my favourites for its lyrics which speak of banging on a door that is locked forever.

      The discovery of new sounds for this album were what lead to the band describing it as akin to "painting the Forth Bridge" when writing and recording the songs for Real Life. Often just as they thought they'd finished a track, they would discover something new and would go back to the beginning and start again.

      Real Life is largely one of the under rated and overlooked Simple Minds albums, yet in my opinion it is worthy of the status of their earlier releases. After the epic 'Street Fighting Years' containing those big issue songs (Belfast Child, Mandela Day, This Is Your Land, Biko etc) I would imagine it may have been difficult for the band to know in which direction to venture next. Therefore a return to the sounds of old, blended with something new for the 90's seems a perfectly good idea to me and it has worked. If you have ever liked Simple Minds at all and this album passed you by, give it a listen, you may be pleasantly surprised.

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    • Product Details

      Disc #1 Tracklisting
      1 Real Life
      2 See The Lights
      3 Let There Be Love
      4 Woman
      5 Stand By Love
      6 Let The Children Speak
      7 African Skies
      8 Ghost Rider
      9 Banging On The Door
      10 Travellin' Man
      11 Rivers Of Ice
      12 When Two Worlds Collide