Progarchives, the progressive rock ultimate discography



Crossover Prog

From, the ultimate progressive rock music website

Sparks No.1 In Heaven album cover
3.55 | 46 ratings | 5 reviews | 13% 5 stars

Excellent addition to any
prog rock music collection

Write a review

Buy SPARKS Music
from partners
Studio Album, released in 1979

Songs / Tracks Listing

1. Tryouts For The Human Race (6:08)
2. Academy Award Performance (5:01)
3. La Dolce Vita (5:54)
4. Beat The Clock (4:24)
5. My Other Voice (4:55)
6. The Number One Song In Heaven (7:26)

Total Time 33:48

Bonus tracks on 2013 remaster:
7. Tryouts For The Human Race (Single Version) (3:17)
8. La Dolce Vita (Single Version) (3:48)
9. Beat The Clock (Single Version) (3:46)
10. The Number One Song In Heaven (Single Version) (3:53)
11. Beat The Clock (Canadian Single Version) (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) (6:40)
15. Tryouts For The Human Race (12 Inch Short Version) (3:58)

Line-up / Musicians

- Russell Mael / lead vocals
- Ron Mael / synths

- Giorgio Moroder / synthesiser, producer & mixing
- Dan Wyman / synth programming
- Chris Bennett / backing vocals
- Jack Moran / backing vocals
- Dennis Young / backing vocals
- Keith Forsey / drums

Releases information

Artwork: Steven Bartel with Moshe Brakha (photo)

LP Elektra ‎- 6E-186 (1979, US)

CD Oasis ‎- CMP 62004 (1995, Germany)
CD Repertoire Records ‎- REP 5309 (2013, Europe) Remastered (?) with 9 bonus tracks

Thanks to matte for the addition
and to Quinino for the last updates
Edit this entry

Buy SPARKS No.1 In Heaven Music

SPARKS No.1 In Heaven ratings distribution

(46 ratings)
Essential: a masterpiece of progressive rock music(13%)
Excellent addition to any prog rock music collection(50%)
Good, but non-essential (20%)
Collectors/fans only (13%)
Poor. Only for completionists (4%)

SPARKS No.1 In Heaven reviews

Showing all collaborators reviews and last reviews preview | Show all reviews/ratings

Collaborators/Experts Reviews

Review by Rune2000
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
3 stars After failing to grasp the attention of audiences with Big Beat and Introducing Sparks, Sparks teamed up with the Italian record producer/songwriter Giorgio Moroder to record No. 1 In Heaven.

Moroder is often credited with pioneering synthesizer disco and electronic dance music, hence it was pretty obvious that this collaboration would not result in a traditional rock record. Tryouts For The Human Race kicks things off with a steady synthesizer beat and things continue in the same style all throughout the record. Most of the tracks sound like a complete reinvention of the band's '70s sound and Academy Award Performance is probably the closest the band gets to their roots.

Even though I can understand the need for this shift in direction that Sparks undertake on this record and can appreciate the complete dedication that the duo show throughout these six tracks, this record feels to mechanic and cold for my tastes. Most of the songs are actually quite catchy but I lack the memorable arrangements that would complete my Sparks experience. I get quite tired of hearing the same beat for more than 2-3 minutes and all of these tracks are well past the 4 minute mark.

Having said that, I still find No. 1 In Heaven to be a pretty solid record, if anything, it's probably the most consistent album that the band have released in the '80s. If you like electronic dance music then this will be a perfect place to start exploring Sparks, if not, then start with their '70s records and work your way up to No. 1 In Heaven and it's followup Terminal Jive.

**** star songs: Tryouts For The Human Race (6:08) Academy Award Performance (5:01) Beat The Clock (4:24) My Other Voice (4:55) The Number One Song In Heaven (7:26)

*** star songs: La Dolce Vita (5:54)

Review by tarkus1980
4 stars Enter Giorgio Moroder. While I like Big Beat and Introducing Sparks, there's no question that the band had stagnated some with those albums, and the brothers were looking to go in a new direction. Through various channels, the two of them managed to hook up with Moroder, whose stock as a writer and producer of slick synthesizer-dominated dance music was at a high point from his film work and from his work with such luminaries as Donna Summer. The album that resulted from this collaboration differed immensely from what the band had done before in a few ways: its 33-minute run-time contains but six tracks, four of which give partial writing credits to Moroder (with Moroder explicitly listed first in one of them); the songs consist entirely of keyboards, drums and vocals, with guitar and bass removed entirely; the songs are built around extensive cycling of a few ideas, and are clearly made to appeal to a Euro-pop/disco mindset as much as a Sparks mindset.

This turned out to be a pretty nice fit for the band, all things considered. After all, as many instances as there might have been of enjoyable guitar work on Sparks albums to this point, Sparks was ultimately a band built around keyboards, snide lyrics and great vocal melodies, and this album puts those aspects front and center. Yes, a couple more distinct ideas per track would have been nice, and there are definitely lengthy stretches where I feel like the brothers somewhat disappear behind the wall of Moroder slickness, but these are flaws that I only notice after the fact, when I feel like I've listened to an album that's a good deal shorter than it actually is (and this is a pretty short album as is). While I don't agree with the band's assessment of this as their best album (or so I've read), I can understand why they'd feel that way.

The opening "Tryouts for the Human Race" sets the album's feel in place immediately, making a song about sperm racing to be the one that unites with the egg into what's probably the most epic six minutes the band had put together yet. Everything about the song feels hot and sticky and moist, from the "dripping" synth sound that starts things off to the swirling sounds in the background to the various synth lines to the pounding beat to the vocal lines. And oh man, the idea of people dancing to lyrics like "We just want to feel the sun and be your little daughter or your son/We're just words that lovers use, words that light that automatic fuse/When that love explosion comes, my, oh my, we want to be someone" just fills me with all sorts of glee. Up next is "Academy Winning Performance," credited solely to Ron, and if it's weaker it's not by much. The thick production lets up a little bit, which is good and bad, but Russell's delivery of a put-down against a woman who's an expert at playiing different roles to ensare men is venomous enough to offset whatever drop in atmosphere there might be.

Far more venomous, though, is the following "La Dolce Vita," a decadent, lush, driving put- down of gold-digging women ("Mira, mira, guys, there's Lira in her eyes" is a typical line), full of alternation between lengthy synth solos and hellish sequenced passages over the best dancable rhythm of the album. Man, is "I catch a cold just by looking in your eyes" a great put-down. Flipping over to side 2, we come to "Beat the Clock" (without a Moroder credit), a 100% disco track musically and a 100% crackup lyrically. The chorus: "I've seen everything there is/I've done everything there is/I've met everyone but Liz/Now I've even met ol' Liz/No time for relationship/Skip the foreplay, let 'er rip/You gotta beat the clock, beat the clock/Beat the clock, beat the clock."

Up next is "My Other Voice," and while I tended to consider it lesser for a long time due to the fact that Moroder is clearly the most prominent figure in the track (he's listed first for a reason), I have to give beautiful atmosphere its due, no matter how it's produced. The first half of the track is instrumental and at first seems like it would better fit into the middle of a contemporary soundtrack than this album, but then a synth (apparently not a guitar like I thought initially) comes in and plays a rather lovely interlude over the atmospheric background, and then a vocoder pops in as a prelude to the vocal portion of the song. Russell then sings a verse of a really lovely vocal melody (with a great delivery too; the way he sings the "oooooy" of the line "With my other voice I can destroy this room" is heavenly), and then a vocoder sings the same melody with different lyrics, and overall the song makes a fine journey from confusing to uplifting in its five minutes.

Finally, there's "The Number One Song in Heaven," which consolidates all of the production effects and keyboard approaches of the rest of the album, and uses them to flesh out a 7- minute "epic" (by Sparks standards anyway) in two parts. The first half is slow and atmospheric in a way that's similar to "My Other Voice," and then the song suddenly turns into an up-tempo techno/disco number with Russell bellowing, "It's number one all over heaven/It's number one all over heaven/It's number one all over heaven/THE NUMBER ONE SONG IN ALL OF HEAVEN!" to herald the second half. The second half is full of all sorts of curiousities, from the current sequencing of sounds after the "...Gabriel plays it, let's hear him play it" verse to the lyrical twist of the song breaking out of heaven and becoming the biggest hit among the living. Wishful thinking, I suppose, but it's a great way to end the song.

No, this isn't quite the best Sparks album, but it is a great reinvention of the band that allowed them to re-emphasize some of their strengths without dwelling in the past, and I'd definitely recommend it to anybody. It also has to hold the title of "Sparks album most likely to be enjoyed by somebody who otherwise hates Sparks," based on the heavy presence of Moroder and the way that it can work as a dance-pop album and not just a collection of weird post-modern pop music (to varying degrees of weirdness). It's also the last really good Sparks album for a long time, sadly.

Review by Warthur
4 stars After their glam rock-influenced style as pioneered on Kimono My House an its followups stopped paying the bills, Sparks shifted gear to synthpop territory. The transition is actually quite successful: they brought in Giorgio Moroder to help out at the production desk, which was a good start, and since their music had always focused a lot on Ron Mael's keyboards a shift to more modern electronic sounds seemed entirely natural. Russell's vocal style also takes well to the synthpop format, and their ornate writing style adds a somewhat progressive spin to the compositions. Yes, it's cheesy, but "Tryouts For the Human Race" and the like are hardly simplistic disco numbers.
Review by patrickq
3 stars If Nš 1 in Heaven has a familiar ring to it, you can probably blame the Father of Disco, Georgio Moroder, who produced the album. Apparently, Moroder and his team went directly from working on this album to producing yet another Donna Summer album, in this case the multi-platinum Bad Girls. (Nš 1 in Heaven was released in March 1979 and Bad Girls In April). The clearest sign of Moroder's hand is the beat; his teamwork with drummer Keith Forsey is one of the most consistent aspects of Nš 1 in Heaven, as it had been for Summer's prior four albums. But Summer and Sparks were heading in opposite directions.

To oversimplify things a bit, in 1979, Donna Summer shifted from European disco toward pop/rock, while the LA band Sparks transitioned (rather abruptly) from pop/rock to European disco. Summer's move made more sense commercially, as disco was on its way out in the US; she had five top-five US pop songs in 1979, including three number-one singles, and she managed to have eight more top-forty hits* across the 1980s?pretty fortunate for a disco artist. But Moroder's brand of "Italo Disco" remained popular in Europe; Nš 1 in Heaven spawned a couple of U.K. hits. A few years later, Sparks finally placed two singles on the Billboard Hot 100, hitting #60 in 1982 and #49 in 1983.

This group is sometimes considered progressive, Nš 1 in Heaven is synthesizer-based disco; there's no way it would be mistaken for rock music, never mind progressive rock. But it could easily be mistaken for an album recorded in 1982, not 1978, and that four-year span was a lifetime in pop music; although the term is probably way overused, this album was genuinely "ahead of its time."

On top of that, it's a pretty good album. As was also typical of Donna Summer albums, the songs are extended, intended for club play. "Beat the Clock" in particular seems to have been written specifically as a dance songs, but most of Nš 1 in Heaven is comprised of pop songs arranged in 1980s Italo-Disco style. Interestingly, the beat of "My Other Voice" is nearly the same as Summer's "Hot Stuff," her first rock-oriented single - - but that's as far as the comparison goes. In terms of composition, the lyrics are very good, and music is fine, although there are only a handful of strong melodies across the album.

The best songs here are "La Dolce Vita" and "the Number One Song in Heaven," the two substantial hits from the album. Of the remaining four songs, only "My Other Voice" feels like filler material. However, prior to Nš 1 in Heaven, Sparks had never released an album with fewer than nine songs. If, rather than stretching the songs here, they had continued that trend, there might've been much more filler.

Overall, Nš 1 in Heaven is a good proto-new-wave dance album. If you're into that kind of stuff, and especially if you also appreciate incisive lyrics, give this one a spin.


*Her cover of Jon & Vangelis's "State of Independence" just missed, hitting #41 in 1982.

Latest members reviews

4 stars Like the best places by the resort swimming pool, the Germans got there first: the use of electronica to change the nature of popular music was all part of the Wirtschaftswunder. Yet when electronica was turned toward more commercial ends, the Pop failed to pop. In their efforts to distance them ... (read more)

Report this review (#2585040) | Posted by trout.phosphor | Wednesday, August 11, 2021 | Review Permanlink

Post a review of SPARKS "No.1 In Heaven"

You must be a forum member to post a review, please register here if you are not.


As a registered member (register here if not), you can post rating/reviews (& edit later), comments reviews and submit new albums.

You are not logged, please complete authentication before continuing (use forum credentials).

Forum user
Forum password

Copyright Prog Archives, All rights reserved. | Legal Notice | Privacy Policy | Advertise | RSS + syndications

Other sites in the MAC network: — jazz music reviews and archives | — metal music reviews and archives

Donate monthly and keep PA fast-loading and ad-free forever.