Russell Mael - lead vocals; Ron Mael - keyboards ; Jim McAlister - guitar, vocals; Luke Zamperini - guitar, vocals; David Swanson - bass; Hilly Boy Michaels - drums
Following Sparks' substantial success with the ambitious and quirky mid-1970s albums Kimono My House, Propaganda and Indiscreet, all produced while living in England, bandleading brothers Ron and Russell Mael dissolved the group and returned to their home state of California. Recruiting new musicians and producer Rupert Holmes, the brothers set their sights on the United States. The result would be the 1976 album Big Beat, which took a more stripped down approach that relied less on the complex arrangements and soaring falsetto vocals that typified their previous work. Instead, Big Beat explored a simpler harder rocking approach that the Maels hoped would connect with American audiences.
Experience Sparks just as that connection began, shortly after the release of Big Beat, when the group hit the stage of Passaic, New Jersey's Capitol Theater. In addition to showcasing a good portion of the new album material, including "Nothing To Do," "I Want To Be Like Everybody Else," "I Bought The Mississippi River," "Everybody's Stupid" and "Big Boy," Sparks also deliver a choice selection of classic older material.
Revamped for a new lineup of musicians, it is this older material, particularly from the Kimono My House and Propaganda albums that Sparks fans may find most intriguing here. Highlights include a blues-influenced revamp of "Equator," high-energy live takes of "Something For The Girl With Everything," "Amateur Hour," "This Town Ain't Big Enough for Both of Us" and "Talent Is An Asset," plus an encore of "Fill-Er-Up." All of this material is performed with a fresh new zeal that showcases the Mael Brothers' undeniable originality, as well as emphasizing the contributions of new recruit guitar slingers Luke Zamperini and Jimmy McAllister.