THEMES (VOLUMES 1-4)
Philip Thomas – ‘Q’ Magazine (UK)
This extraordinary set of picture CDs, packaged in Chinese-puzzle style cardboard boxes, five to a box, effectively charts the ’80s from the perspective of Simple Minds. Priced at about pounds sterling20 per box, and released as a limited edition, they do indeed remind the casual listener that the band made it very big indeed during the last decade, from Promised You A Miracle to Belfast Child.
In between, these compilation CDs bear witness to such popular tracks as Speed Your Love To Me, Up On The Catwalk, Waterfront and Don’t You (Forget About Me) -several times. For here we have not so much a collection of tracks as a completist’s dream: as well as straight tracks, there are 12-inch remixes, dance mixes, extended mixes, unauthorised mixes and, in one case, a C.J. Mackintosh mix. If this all sounds a little too much, Themes-all four of them -are redeemed by the uniformly excellent production and brilliant atmosphere Simple Minds made their own.
And if at times the preciousness of the later work sets the teeth on edge, the sheer musical skill and undoubted power of the band makes up for it, reminding you that unless something drastic happens, the ’90s could be as good a decade for the boys as the ’80s were. As well as the hits, there are other interesting tit-bits: Volume Four, for instance, sees excellent covers of Prince’s Sign O’ The Times, Peter Gabriel’s Biko and even that well known rock classic, Jerusalem.
Perhaps a double-album featuring the choicest morsels from these compilations would be more popular and less unwieldy (for instance, Promised You A Miracle is on Volume One and Volume Three-so which does a skint fan choose?), but for those lovers of Simple Minds with £80 to spare, few things could represent better value.