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Acoustic Digipak Promo


Simple Minds have taken their time in coming up with first acoustic album. But given that they made their biggest commercial impact with towering singles like Promised You A Miracle and Don't You (Forget About Me), that's not surprising. The band became the standard bearers for a new kind of rock music in the Eighties when they added big chorus and widescreen atmospherics to the art-rock invention of the post-punk era. So, even in the 'unplugged' upswing that followed, when practically every major rock band stripped down their songs and played then acoustically, Simple Minds shied away.

But now, on Simple Minds Acoustic, they have found a way of doing the acoustic thing without losing their essence, and a dozen Simple Minds songs loved by millions now sound softer, more organic and even more likely to leave a lasting imprint. The synths are no more - but the Celtic soul remains.

The fact that the album sessions entailed a sentimental return ot their Glasgow roots for Jim and guitarist Charlie Burchill helped, with some songs recorded in Gorbals Studio, a former railway workers' social club located a stone's throw from the high-rise estates of the city's South Side where the pair took their first musical steps. It was in this building that Jim and Charlie played their first gig, as teenagers in a school glam-rock band, and emotions were understandably high on their return. "The memories came flooding back the moment we were in," says Jim. "Our parents used to drink there. An old school friend turned it into a recording studio, but he kept the original room with its little stage."

With so much music to choose from, picking a running order wasn't easy. But there were still some numbers that had to feature. A quartet of songs from 1982's New Gold Dream album, all still performed live, were among them. For Promised You A Miracle, the band are joined by fellow Scot K T Tunstall, whose distinctive vocals, acoustic strumming and rolling bass groove transform a piece of music that was the band's first 'pure pop song' when it arrived in 1982. "KT was great," says Jim of their duet. "We sent her an outline of the song based on an arrangement I'd done with Martha Wainwright, but KT turned it on its head. She really set about it!" With regular backing singer Sarah Brown soulfully to the fore, there is also a powerful feminine presence on Glittering Prize, another New Gold Dream song. "The female musicians are very prominent," continues Jim. "Sarah's singing is beautiful, and Cherisse's percussion is important too." The two remaining New Gold Dream tracks, Someone Somewhere In Summertime and the title track, add deeper, darker textures while retaining the panoramic ambience of old.

Simple Minds Acoustic goes back further, too, with Charlie adding Spanish guitar to Chelsea Girl (from 1979 debut album Life In A Day). He also supplies acoustic lines with the feel of Led Zeppelin III on The American, the swaggering song that was the band's first single for Virgin in 1981. There are later highlights, too, with 1984's Waterfront joined by two songs from 1985's Once Upon A Time - Alive And Kicking and a soulful take on Sanctify Yourself. From the following decade, 1991's See The Lights shows just what can be done when an acoustic guitar is treated with special effects.

The album concludes with Don't You (Forget About Me), the enduring Breakfast Club closing song that gave Simple Minds a number one single in America, plus a yearning cover of Richard Hawley's Long Black Train. Jim Kerr discovered the wonderfully moving lament, from the Sheffield singer-songwriter's 2001 album Late Night Final, when it cropped up on an Alan Yentob BBC documentary about Man Brooker Prize winner Richard Flanagan, whose brutal novel The Narrow Road To The Deep North chronicled the experiences of Allied POWs working on the Thailand-Burma railway in WWII. "Long Black Train came on at the end of the documentary and I could feel the tears welling up," says Jim. "The song is a reflective ballad about the passing of time, and it meant a lot to Charlie and I, as we've both lost close family members in recent years. We love doing covers, so it was good to come up with a great song that is relatively unknown. There is a touch of Lou Reed's Perfect Day about it, and it's a nice bonus to finish the album."

As a group who formed in the punk era and found their mojo through a shared love of Bowie, Kraftwerk and electronic dance, Simple Minds are not natural acoustic adventurers, but they have done a remarkable job here, adding fresh nuance to brilliant songs without trampling on sacred memories. "Our songs mean a lot to people, so we had to be careful," says Jim. "It wasn't a case of just knocking up some acoustic riffs. We had to show respect to the songs and retain everything that made them good in the first place."