Simple Minds: Celebrate
Let’s get one thing out of the way: “Don’t You (Forget About Me)” is an enduring classic. That track alone would elevate Simple Minds to classic status, but Celebrate demonstrates that they have so much more to offer. This band has released greatest hits compilations before, but this one is more comprehensive than ever, amounting to fifty songs over three discs devoted to different periods of the band’s history: 1979 to 1984, 1985 to 1991, and 1995 to 2013.
With its length and depth of material, this is more a choice for an established fan of Simple Minds rather than as motivation to bring someone new into the fold. For instance, I consider myself a casual listener of the band, but I found most of the first disc hit-or-miss. (Admittedly, all of these songs were released before I was born.) However, there are hints of greatness. I heard a brilliant beat and shades of Talking Heads in “I Travel,” and the popping bass of “The American” was catchy. The instrumental “Theme for Great Cities” is also a shining piece of work, spanning nearly six minutes.
Disc two kicks off with everyone’s familiar “Don’t You (Forget About Me),” but that is swiftly followed by another hit, “Alive and Kicking.” Simple Minds hit their stride with big, emotive songs during this period, especially combined with soulful backing vocals as featured on “All the Things She Said.” Still, there are other sides to the band to come out here, such as the political on the plaintive song “Belfast Child” and the simple appeal of “Let It All Come Down.”
The first song on disc three, “She’s a River,” declares, “I just found my new direction,” which could be the manifesto of this period. “Glitterball” is a surprisingly slinky, sexy track, while “Dancing Barefoot” shows off the band’s romantic backbone with notions like “she is benediction” and “she is sublimation.” One of the strongest tracks here is “Stranger,” which crosses into stadium rock territory complete with a “sha la la” singalong portion.
Two new songs also featured at the end of the last disc, though they left little impression on me. Nevertheless, they’ll be a delight to true fans, and this collection will strike them as the right balance of greatest hits and having to slog through several albums for their favorites.