|SPARKS - HALFNELSON
REVIEW BY MARTIN TRUKSA
Sparks : Halfnelson (Bearsville Records) 1971 :-
This debut album, produced by Todd Rundgren, was released in 1971 as 'Halfnelson' and re-released in 1972 as 'Sparks'. Ron and Russell Mael had teamed up with fellow student Earle Mankey at UCLA. Earle was extremely talented at recording on a reel-to-reel tape recorder, speeding things up, playing things backwards, adding reverb, etc.
His influence is very prevalent on this album and on the follow-up, 'A Woofer In Tweeter's Clothing'.
'Halfnelson' is an extraordinary debut album. Todd Rundgren effectively gave Ron and Russ free reign to be as experimental as they liked, and the end result is a very eccentric collection of tracks. Despite the modest budget, and primitive equipment, 'Halfnelson' sounds quite sophisticated, but not as psychedelic as the earlier (and now infamous) 'Halfnelson demos'.
2 Originals of Sparks - Halfnelson
In concert Russell would often wield a sledgehammer during "No More Mr. Nice Guys". On one memorable occasion he inadvertently let the hammer slip and finished the show with blood streaming from a serious wound to his head. He had to have twenty five stitches!. A more successful - less deadly - special effect was a large boat pushed across the stage by a roadie for "Slowboat" from which Russell showered the audience with bouquets and candy.
'Wonder Girl' was released as a single and promptly shot to number 1 in the charts (the local charts in Montgomery County, Alabama, that is !!!). The song was performed live on 'American Bandstand'.
'Slowboat', a gorgeous, sensuous ballad, is the most commercial sounding song on the album and should have been released as a single. The song is similar in style to 'Bridge Over Troubled Water', a chart-topper for Simon & Garfunkel in 1970.
'Fletcher Honorama' is a rather morbid sounding song about a dying man ("Please go easy now with him, because this is his final whim. So be sure that the boy don't die before the morn").
Other highlights include 'Fa La Fa Lee', 'High C' and 'Big Bands'. 'Simple Ballet' sounds like a tune from an old-style mechanical music box. And the final track of the album, 'No More Mr. Nice Guys', is a classic hard-edged rock song.
Many of the sounds on this album were created simply by beating on cardboard boxes or glass bottles, and running the sound through an amplifier with reverb on. The end product, however, sounds highly polished, professional and well ahead of its time.
For lyrics to Sparks Halfnelson click on the link to the left.
SPARKS : Wonder Girl, Fa La Fa Le, Roger, High C, Fletcher Honorama, Simple Ballet, Slowboat, Biology 2, Saccharin & The War, Big Bands, No More Mr Nice Guys
Sparks / Halfnelson (HOMEPAGE)