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Sparks - No.1 In Heaven CD (album) cover

NO.1 IN HEAVEN

Sparks

 

Crossover Prog

3.50 | 37 ratings

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patrickq
Prog Reviewer
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.

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

patrickq | 3/5 |

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