Simple Minds - New Gold Dream (81-82-83-84) - Review
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critics' view

Originally released in September 1982, New Gold Dream (81-82-83-84) was the album that saw Simple Minds move from being a well-respected cult to one of the biggest bands of the 80s and – remarkably for the time – doing so without once resorting to cliché. As Paul Morley said in NME on its release, “I am jarred by the constant beauty of this music.” Now with this five CD and DVD reappraisal, the beauty is extrapolated: the lightness of its touch, the weirdness of the lyrics and its otherworldly feel makes it adorable still.

Though appearing less than a year after their Virgin debut – Sons And Fascination/ Sister Feelings Call – New Gold Dream (81- 82-83-84) seemed to take forever to arrive. Promised You A Miracle, recorded ahead of the album in early 1982, stood alone, released in the March of that year. It sounded unlike anything the group had released before; commercial, airy and strange, it gave them their first UK Top 20 hit.

Emboldened by this, the group built their forthcoming album around their hit, and what an LP it was to be. Snatches were heard via BBC Radio 1 sessions for John Peel and ‘Kid’ Jensen; proof that they could still straddle the pop kids and the cognoscenti.

There is a key paragraph in Billy Sloan’s extensive liner notes, which explains it all. It regards the choice of producer Pete Walsh, who was only 20 at the time: “After working with Walsh on the remix of Sweat In Bullet, [guitarist Charlie] Burchill had enthused that the producer’s strength was not what he had put into their song – but what he had left out.” Jim Kerr said, “Charlie told me: ‘Pete’s taken a ton of stuff out… But don’t worry. It sounds amazing. You’ll love it.’” The album became a triumph of what was left out.

Like all the best albums, New Gold Dream (81-82-83-84) retains that indefinable “thing”; the whole band were playing at their peak; Mick McNeill’s shimmering keyboards and Derek Forbes’ beautiful bass provided a subtlety to the groove; allowing Burchill and Kerr’s musical ideas to flow. You’d never guess there are three different drummers on the album.

The bonus material complements the original well: there is the usual flurry of sessions, extended versions, B-sides; the 2005 5.1 mix of the album. The disc of alternate takes and longer mixes is superb. You may need to don night vision goggles at times to spot the differences but differences there are; nothing takes away from the strength of the writing and the quality of the performances.

New Gold Dream (81-82-83-84) stands shining and singular in the Simple Minds canon. Its template was bludgeoned to within an inch of its life on the following year’s Sparkle In The Rain, and it was never the same again. Everything that had been taken out had been put back in. Now it not only takes its place among the greatest future-pop albums of the 80s (Dare, The Lexicon Of Love), it sits comfortably among the greatest pop albums of all time. This set more than does it justice.

Tom Byford
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