Only Sparks could do this. A 64-minute 24-song cycle commissioned for Swedish radio about Ingmar Bergman. It’s about an imaginary time when the legendary director was courted by Hollywood in 1956, a tale of the battle for artistic integrity against the demands of commerce that every great artist has to face at some juncture in their career.
Obscure, of course – delightfully warm, naturally; it underlines Sparks’ greatness and importance. With a vocal cast of 13, and their touring band of the past few years, it has all the craft and tension of a recent Sparks work, coming alive when Russell, as the studio chief, sings. Swedish actor Jonas Malmsjö plays Bergman with all the appropriate detached paranoia, while Ron Mael makes his vocal debut as the limo driver and Hollywood tour driver. It will be the only pop record this year with the lines “Smiles Of A Summer Night / Sommartnattens leende / Hope I got the title right / Hoppas jag fick titeln ratt”.
The Seduction Of Ingmar Bergman manages to avoid camp, and even has hummable melodies. This review could read like one of those YES/NO flow diagrams. Did you love Lil’Beethoven? If YES, you will love this. If NO, return to Kimono My House.