No. 1 in Heaven
|No. 1 in Heaven|
|Studio album by Sparks|
|Genre||Disco, electronica, synthpop|
|Singles from No. 1 in Heaven|
No. 1 in Heaven is the eighth album by the American rock band Sparks. Recorded with Italian disco producer Giorgio Moroder, it marked a change of musical direction for the group and became influential on later synth-pop bands.
Released in 1979 by Virgin Records (initial copies on colored vinyl) and later licensed to Elektra Records in the States, No. 1 in Heaven renewed interest in the band after disappointing sales of albums like Big Beat and Introducing Sparks. The album is the first and only of the band's to be issued on Elektra Records, the 4th label the band was signed to in the US.
In 1973, Sparks had decamped from the US to the UK, the move resulted in a change of line up and English musicians were hired to fill the roles of guitar, bass and drums. This decision had proved a good one, and Sparks enjoyed their first period of success wherein their singles and albums sold well and were received warmly by the critics. Indiscreet; the third of Sparks' UK-based albums was more ambitious than the former two but had sold less well. The Maels then chose to return to Los Angeles to rejuvenate the group.
Initially they had returned to work with the early Sparks member Earle Mankey and recorded the song "England" with him. Eventually the group turned to Rupert Holmes and recorded the heavier and slicker Big Beat with a number of session musicians. Although the album employed a more "American" sound, it did little business in the US or the UK. The next album Introducing Sparks was much lighter but was equally slick and was no more successful than Big Beat. This new "West Coast" sound was deemed a failure as they felt the results were "bereft of personality". The Mael Brothers found themselves at a 'what do we do now?' moment. By 1978 they had tired of the rock band format and determined to take their music in a more electronic direction.
In 1978 Sparks teamed up with pioneering Italian producer Giorgio Moroder to record No. 1 in Heaven at Musicland Studios, West Germany. They had expressed admiration for Giorgio Moroder, creator of the iconic disco anthem "I Feel Love" performed by Donna Summer, to a German journalist who turned out to be a friend of his.
No. 1 in Heaven had a dramatically different sound to that of Sparks' previous seven albums. The group dropped the standard guitar, bass and piano from its musical palette. The new sound was dominated by layered sequencers and synthesizers underpinned by the drums and percussion of Keith Forsey. Russell Mael's voice which employed his distinctive falsetto was overlaid in a number of overdubs and complemented by backing vocalists. Musically, the sound of the album matched that of "I Feel Love" and much of Moroder's solo work. Aside from Ron Mael's lyrics and Russell's vocals, the sound of songs like "Tryouts for the Human Race" and "La Dolce Vita" continued in the vein of Donna Summer's music. Moroder's trademark sound, that began in 1977 with "I Feel Love", also appeared on Summer's Once Upon a Time ("Now I Need You", "Working the Midnight Shift", "Queen for a Day") and again on 1979's Bad Girls in songs like "Sunset People".
Release, reception and legacy
|Robert Christgau||B+ |
No. 1 in Heaven was promoted by the release of four singles over 1979. The first single, "La Dolce Vita" was released in early 1979 in European countries such as Germany and Italy but did not chart. "The Number One Song in Heaven", became the group's first hit since "Looks, Looks, Looks" in 1975. It reached #14 in the UK and made #5 on the Irish Singles Chart. "Beat the Clock," the follow-up, did even better in the UK and reached the top ten in July of that year. The final single (released after the album), "Tryouts for the Human Race," fared less well but still charted, hitting #45. All singles (except "La Dolce Vita") were released on picture disc/coloured vinyl with exclusive remixes/edits. The album itself, while reaching the charts in the UK and therefore faring better than Sparks' former two albums, managed only one week at #73 in September 1979.
The first US editions of the LP contained content identical to the original Virgin UK release, but later editions substituted the 12" extended mix of "Beat the Clock" for the album version.
Joy Division cited "Number One Song in Heaven" as a primary influence during the recording of "Love Will Tear Us Apart". Joy Division's drummer Stephen Morris stated: "When we were doing Love Will Tear Us Apart, there were two records we were into: Frank Sinatra's Greatest Hits and Number One Song in Heaven by Sparks. That was the beginning of getting interested in Giorgio Moroder".
|1.||"Tryouts for the Human Race"||6:05|
|2.||"Academy Award Performance"||Ron Mael||5:00|
|3.||"La Dolce Vita"||5:56|
|4.||"Beat the Clock"||Ron Mael, Russell Mael||4:23|
|5.||"My Other Voice"||Giorgio Moroder, Ron Mael, Russell Mael||4:54|
|6.||"The Number One Song in Heaven"||7:26|
|2009 Imperial Records (Japan) bonus tracks|
|7.||"Dancing Is Dangerous"||Ron Mael, Russell Mael||9:43|
|8.||"Is There More To Life Than Dancing"||Ron Mael, Russell Mael||8:08|
|9.||"Beat The Clock (Meat Beat Manifesto Remix - Double Bass Remix)"||Ron Mael, Russell Mael||6:13|
|2013 Repertoire Records (Europe) bonus tracks|
|7.||"Tryouts For the Human Race (Single Version)"||3:17|
|8.||"La Dolce Vita (Single Version)"||3:48|
|9.||"Beat the Clock (Single Version)"||Ron Mael, Russell Mael||3:46|
|10.||"The Number One Song In Heaven (Single Version)"||3:53|
|11.||"Beat the Clock (Canadian Single Version)"||Ron Mael, Russell Mael||4:21|
|12.||"Tryouts For the Human Race (Extended Version)"||7:56|
|13.||"La Dolce Vita (Extended Version)"||5:57|
|14.||"Beat the Clock (Extended Version)"||Ron Mael, Russell Mael||6:40|
|15.||"Tryouts For the Human Race (12 Inch Short Version)"||3:58|
- Ron Mael – keyboards, synthesiser, vocals
- Russell Mael – vocals
- Keith Forsey – drums
- Giorgio Moroder – synthesiser, vocoder, producer
- Dan Wyman – synthesiser programming
- Chris Bennett, Dennis Young, Jack Moran – backing vocals
- Jürgen Koppers - engineer
- Steven Bartel - design
- Moshe Brakha - photography
- "Sparks - No. 1 in Heaven". Allmusic. Retrieved 21 December 2014.
- "45cat - Sparks - La Dolce Vita / My Other Voice - Ariola - Germany - 100 294". 45cat. Retrieved 2014-12-14.
- "45cat - Sparks - The Number One Song In Heaven / The Number One Song In Heaven (Long Version) - Virgin - UK - VS 244". 45cat. Retrieved 2014-12-14.
- "45cat - Sparks - Tryouts For The Human Race / The No. 1 Song In Heaven - Elektra - USA - E-46045". 45cat. Retrieved 2014-12-14.
- "45cat - Sparks - Tryouts For The Human Race / Tryouts For The Human Race (Long Version) - Virgin - UK - VS 289". 45cat. Retrieved 2014-12-14.
- "45cat - Sparks - Beat The Clock / Beat The Clock (Alternative Mix) - Virgin - UK - VS 270". 45cat. Retrieved 2014-12-14.
- Easlea, Daryl (July 2003). "Sparks Interview". Record Collector (287).
- No. 1 in Heaven (Review) at AllMusic. Retrieved December 14, 2014.
- "CG: Sparks". Robert Christgau. Retrieved 2014-12-14.
- "Chart Stats - Sparks". chartstats.com. Archived from the original on 2012-07-23. Retrieved 2008-07-22.
- "The Irish Charts - Sparks search". irishcharts.ie. Retrieved 2008-07-22.
- Reynolds, Simon (2009). Totally Wired: Post-Punk Interviews and Overviews. Faber and Faber. ISBN 978-0571235490.