Let us guide you through some of our choice picks from the pile of this years RSD releases and the ones we fancy as well as the ones that might just be a Record shop bun fight. As fans go toe to toe for that collectible 7″ that you hope and pray won’t be on eBay for even larger inflated prices than you pay on the day. Anyway, we’ve picked through the list alphabetically and where possible we’ll give you online guide prices (some of which will make your eyes water). This is part one – part two will follow tomorrow.
First up is a no brainer for us as The Alarm celebrate reissuing ‘Strength’ on vinyl and give it the old dark arts of a remaster there is also a RSD double live album of one of their best bootlegs live from Boston Orpheum in 85 on the Strength Tour. Four of the tracks (Where Were You Hiding?, Deeside, Sixty Eight Guns & Knocking On Heaven’ s Door), were used as B-sides and extra tracks with the band’ s ‘ Spirit Of ‘ 76’ UK single release of early 1986 which put the band into the UK Top 30, with ‘ Howling Wind’ being issued in the USA only as part of the ‘ Live For Life’ IRS Records cancer benefit compilation album. The audio was recorded by WBCN Radio Station in Boston, MA on November 9th 1985 and was a pretty hot show to record. Certainly, one to pick up.
Second up is possibly one of this year’s most popular releases that of ‘Bingo Hand Job – Live At The Borderline 91‘ Who you might ask? Well, if you have asked its probably not for you then. It’s none other than REM and some friends such as Billy Bragg pre-MTV unplugged superstardom taken from a set they played in London under the name BHJ. Again this is a two-disc LP and has reached mythical status amongst REM fans over the years as to its validity. Heads down 1-2-3-4 Go! Expect to pay stupid money for a copy of this if you find yourself without a copy on the day.
Next we see Bob Dylans classic ‘Blood On The Tracks‘ being advertised as the original New York Test Pressing and its also to be found on rough Trades website for £26.99 the story goes like thus – Months before Bob Dylan released ‘Blood On The Tracks’ in early 1975, a small number of test pressings were circulated, consisting entirely of material from sessions at A&R Recording Studios in New York City. (Dylan re-recorded five of these tracks in Minneapolis for inclusion on the final album.) Those original records were soon bootlegged, and the alternate history of one of Dylan’s most acclaimed works was born. This LP is an exact duplicate of the test pressing, containing unique mixes from the New York session available for the first time. It doesn’t say if this is limited so I’d imagine this might well be pressed in big numbers thus making it available after the furor of RSD has gone.
Next is Brett Smiley and ‘Sunset Towers‘ an eight-track release. Brett recorded a session at what was to become Cherokee Studios, in the Valley in Los Angeles. Owned by The Robbs, three brothers who had previously been the house band on ‘60s TV music show Where The Action Is (and who backed Brett on the session) and produced by Del Shannon, the session has lain in the vaults till now. This album of previously unreleased recordings is a what could have been for American glam music. expect to pay £21.99 for this album
RSD stalwarts Cheap Trick have something to offer this year that is one of the limited pieces and will be globally sought after ‘The Epic Archive Vol. 3 (1984-1992) (Limited 2-LP “Flame Red” Vinyl Edition)’ After Releasing Two Packages of Cheap Trick Rarities on LP for Record Store Day and BlackFriday to Great Acclaim (and Great Sales), Real Gone Music Is Back with Its Third and FinalCompilation of Hard-to-Find Epic Label Nuggets. coloured vinyl and limited to 2000 pieces this will fly which is why they’ve put an eye-watering price of £44.99 on it for a double album! Ouch!
The first seven-inch single we are really interested in is from Chuck Mosley. Never before released its limited to 750 copies worldwide. Chuck former singer with Faith No More, Bad Brains, Indoria and Primitive Race decided to pursue a solo project with a raw, psychedelic, acoustic direction. Armed with his guitar, a vocal effects processor, and a few friends (Cris Morgan, Randy Pirosko, and Douglas Esper), he embarked on a two-year tour and completed a few recording sessions. During a six-hour block in August of 2017 with producer Joe Haze, Chuck recorded two covers, “Nothing Compares 2 U,” originally written by Prince (and originally made famous by Sinead O’ Connor), and “Take this Bottle” by Faith No More (a FNM cut recorded during Mike Patton’ s reign). The two recordings have never been released until now. This ended up as Chuck’ s last time recording in a studio before his death on November 9th 2017. His guitar solo on Nothing Compares 2 U never got completed as the band had to leave for a show that night in Salt Lake City. Tracks : A Side Nothing Compares To You B Side Take This Bottle.
Bowie always a RSD favourite for the scalpers as they look to take advantage of the limited quantities available this year sees ‘Pin Up’s‘ getting the picture disc treatment and already its advertised on eBay for upwards of $80 a snip I guess if you can’t be bothered to go find a copy and go against everything RSD stands for even if it does look a very nice record. Good luck baggin’ one of these folks. It doesn’t say how many have been pressed but I’d imagine it’s not enough to satisfy the demand.
The Crow – OST Original motion picture soundtrack to the movie of the same title, to be released on vinyl for the first time since its original 1994 release. The album features covers, including Nine Inch Nails who covered Joy Division’ s “Dead Souls”, Pantera who covered Poison Idea’ s “The Badge”, and Rollins Band who covered Suicide’ s “Ghost Rider”, and Rage Against the Machine re-recorded their 1991 B-side “Darkness of Greed” and renamed it “Darkness” for this soundtrack. It’s a three-sided record with side four being an etching. It seems like this is the popular thing at the moment to leave side four blank and put an etching on it but hey maybe I’m old fashion I’d rather some more music. Expect to pay an eye watering £34.99 for this but it is limited to 1000 pieces
‘Dexys Midnight Runners Live At The BBC‘ is also on some RPM lists as this 1982 recording of the band at the peak of their powers and for the first time on vinyl, this legendary Newcastle BBC In Concert was regarded as a turning point in the band’ s career. the concert features a host of the finest Dexys’ tracks as well as introducing the audience to Dexys new “Celtic” sound including ‘Geno’, ‘Let’ s Make This Precious’, ‘Jackie Wilson Said’, ‘The Celtic Soul Brothers’… The concert introduces the Emerald Express string section and the audience are treated to the not heard before ‘Come On Eileen’-listen to the reaction after… The LP set finishes with 4 tracks from a David Jensen session from the same year. This double album pressed on Green Vinyl will look to set you back £27.99 if you’re lucky enough to bag one of the 1400 copies. Good luck!
The first real big money item has to be ‘The Doors – London Fog’ pressed on 10″ this Individually numbered limited edition (if you can call 18,000 limited – cough cough) will look to set you back £42.99. It’s a Lift-top package designed to look like a vintage storage box.and has Seven songs on both CD and a 10-inch record that’s made to resemble a test pressing, Postcards, Setlist handwritten by John Densmore, Liner notes included from Sunset Strip legend Ronnie Haran-Mellen and Five black and white 8×10 reprints of unpublished photos. sounds neat but limited?
Pink & Blue Double LP (3 sided, the 4th side is etched) live recording from The Oakland Coliseum April 1984 another I know several RPM scribes will be all over this in their shoulder-padded coats jostling to the front of the shop to make sure they get their copy. Oh didn’t I say its Duran Duran. This one surfaced originally as a bonus to the 2010 reissue of ‘Seven And The Ragged Tiger’ ‘As The Lights Go Down’ has never been officially released on vinyl. until now that is. only 5,500 pieces available. One thing I often think about RSD is the packaging often it leaves a lot to be desired and seems rushed considering the mark up they put on the records it could and should be much better.
Whilst the Fall seems to have about as many releases as they had band members in the 90’s its Fallen Angels that really interests us. Getting the double coloured vinyl treatment it also comes in a gatefold and has a cool booklet with extensive notes and pictures from the recordings. It features the original album plus bonus Lp of singles and extra tracks. In 1984 Hanoi Rocks were signed to CBS and about to hit the charts they found themselves with a few weeks off. Meanwhile, The Vibrators were also taking a break, and Knox had some great new songs sitting there waiting for fate to intervene. It did, and they got together for this much-lauded and awesome album. Jungle has done this release proud and you should be able to score a copy for around £21.99 which is money well spent if you ask me. RPM will be reviewing this release in depth just before RSD.
Frank Black also sees his long out of print albums ‘Teenager OF The Year‘ and self-titled albums get a long overdue re-release on coloured vinyl but these should be available after RSD has passed.
We’ll end this first part of our RSD round up with another 7″ single this time it’s a Red Vinyl contains two previously unreleased mixes of the classic single ‘ Your Generation’ and later b-side ‘ Trying For Kicks’ From the mighty Generation X. Both tracks are previously unreleased and are Exclusive to this release and do not feature on the Deluxe Edition of the band’s album that is being released later on in April through Chrysalis Records.
We had the original record come out in 1985 on IRS records then we had the box set in 2000 that had a bunch of bonus cuts from B sides all pulled together then in 2015 we had the 30th Anniversary edition that was re-recorded and re-arranged. Peters himself is of the opinion song for song word for word its the strongest album of the original line ups material in the ’80s.
A big claim indeed and one that will no doubt cause debate amongst the believers from here until the cows come home. For me, Not a chance…am I getting into that debate here, I’ll keep my powder dry, for now with regards to where ‘Strength’ fits in to the bands best list.
Fast forward to 2019 and as part of the reissue project Peters is undertaking we’ve already had the ‘Eponymous’ and ‘Declaration’ records they come out last year and to be fair they were fantastic in content, packaging and pulling the releases and periods of The band together under one title.
they were a fine example of how to carry out such a mammoth labour of love. Whilst it showed a band that might have been a bit nieve from their first recordings they soon found their feet and identity in the big wide world of the music biz and the hunger and desire to compete and succeed was evident. A band who could write some tunes as well and ones that have stood the test of time. So onto ‘Strength’ and that difficult second album – stand still and just be content with what you’ve got or twist and grow. For a band who were forging its own slice of history amid some pretty fierce journalism and a fairly hostile press who fought hard to bury the band amongst some rubbish comparisons and cheap jibes but what doesn’t kill you and all that the Alarm weren’t having any of it and rose above the jibes.
The Alarm grew in confidence and stature and the fans on the street got behind them we knew the score. They played the UCLA to a big crowd granted it was a free show but it was the Alarms show and whilst the mix was a bit fucked and lacked a bit of Sharpies bite and Twists bass drum it was still great to see and hear the band breaking historic ground and all with some dodgy haircuts and questionable wardrobe choices (but it is the mid 80’s I hear you say) anyway this isn’t a history lesson of my youth its a review of the bands sophomore album ‘Strength’.
I think Peters has said that McDonald had said to him to write songs about himself and who and where he’s from rather than big grand gestures which he took on board and penned some of the bands most popular material in ‘Spirit Of 76’, ‘Deeside’ and ‘Walk Forever By My Side’.
I’m not one of the fans who think the original line up is the only lineup and the band and songs cease to exist after Brixton, far from it, but, sure I have my favourite periods and albums like most people. If I’m honest I loved the ‘Eponymous’ period and ‘Declaration’ has the best songs and that’s when I got into this band and they were mine and were a big part of growing up. I loved the sound of the electrified acoustics of those early years and the live shows were sensational so the more chart-friendly sound and ‘produced’ mix of ‘Strength’ took some getting used to. There are parts of the album I adored and still do ‘Deeside’ and ‘Majority’ being two of my favourites from the period I could never believe how the latter was only the B side to ‘Strength’. Of course, I wanted “my band” to be the biggest band on the planet and wanted them to have every success and people to like them as much as my friends and I did as we followed them around the country and thought that ‘Absolute Reality’ was going to be where they were heading and I loved that as it was such a great song but sadly it was missing from the album when it hit the shelves. What were they doing? How could they? Thats two songs left off the album – man this is going to be some follow up if they didn’t make the cut.
Anyway, I’d heard a lot of the songs live before I’d heard the record and ‘Knifedge’ was always a great opener so this was fine with me it’s got a good tempo and it rocked on the record as it did live. Looking back I can’t believe the first three songs on the album clock in well over five minutes which is nuts when you think about it and maybe a good two minutes too long and I never liked the keyboard sound on ‘Dawn Chorus’ because I loved the song and the way the verses built and the gang vocals worked but those keyboards. Now don’t get carried away its not like I hated the record, honest.
Then to follow that they had the epic almost ‘Stairway To Heaven’ like ‘Spirit Of 76’ that built and built and told the story of where Peters came from and I’ve always had a love-hate relationship with this song and there have been times when I’ve loved it having seen it performed well over 100 times and some and other times I found it bloated and hoped it was omitted from the set. Then when I decided I wanted to write a review for the release I have played it quite a few times probably more than any other period over the last thirty years (God now I feel Old).
I was quite excited at the package of the CD and vinyl set having the motherload of tracks from the period and I guess some time away from playing ‘Strength’ maybe laying fresh ears on it has given me distance and perspective. I now see it like a long lost and fondly looked upon relative rather than the debut albums nemesis and songs like ‘Spirit’ rightly hold a special place in the band’s history. I can remember thinking – the cheeky bastards having the front to make a seven-minute single and have female backing vocals and a Pete Townsend guitar break in the middle as the song seemed to take on part 1 part 2 and so on. But time has healed and I now look back at some of the shows where I sat on my mate or brothers shoulders and sang every lyric as my life depended on it and maybe I was harsh on such a great tune.
Maybe it says more about me and my concentration span that the shorter faster songs were the ones that most appealed and to be fair ‘Deeside’ has stood the test of time it was always a belter and I still love hearing it.
‘Father To Son’ always struck me as a bit of an album track. Whilst showing the band had evolved and could write a pop song (of sorts) it was never going to be a single and I doubt it will be any alarm fans favourite track but it worked on the album and to be fair Sharpy plays a blinder with some great fills and playing and when I’ve heard it live in recent years its sounded great. ‘Only The Thunder’ is another I always classed as a bit of an album track. Better than ‘Father To Son’ but quite lyric heavy but one where they got the balance of the commercial keyboard sound with the electric guitar band blends right on the money.
I always loved ‘The Day The Ravens Left The Tower’ and loved the lyrics and the arrangement and thought Peters turned in a fantastic performance with his vocals and always loved it live. I can remember I always used to wish the lyrics would come true (some things never change eh). Nine songs on my original version Ten on the US one which only left that soppy ballad at the end. ‘Walk Forever By My Side’ was always a cheesy song (sure I had it played at my wedding). It was always the song to take a toilet break live or get to the bar and nothings change there, my wife will no doubt have it as her favourite Alarm song which says it all. Anyway, the remaster does nothing to change my mind there then. Possibly The Alarms ‘Marmite’ song. Anyway the addition of ‘Absolute Reality’ warms the cockles of my heart always was and still is one of the bands finest songs. A great choppy riff and some great lyrics to boot I never liked the pound shop U2 jibes and I still don’t. besides, U2 never wrote a song this good and I’m sticking to that ‘Absolute’ was a game changer. As was the ‘Absolute tour’.
To complete this reissue Peters has delved into his diaries and packaged the recordings like the first two and bloody lovely they are too but this seems more comprehensive well above and beyond than 99.9% of other bands will deliver. Rich in detail and with the required amount of passion you’d expect from the man who still believes in Rock and Roll and leaves nothing on the stage every time he performs. When nobody else cared about his band and legacy he did and that’s why he’s built it up from the smoldering embers of peoples memories to a raging bonfire The Alarm is currently. Bloody good on him for that too hard work and passion has paid off. I saw him play to several dozen in Newport or St Asaphs or Swansea or wherever and all these years later its sold-out Gatherings and university Great Hall sell outs as decades later many reconnect as well as get into the band for the first time and that’s down to the hard work and dedication of Peters and his team at the MPO but without his catalogue of songs it simply wouldn’t be possible.
I’m still a fanboy and happy to admit it, I buy all the records and was buzzing when this dropped on the mat. Opening the package and digging in and rediscovering songs I ignored and also having songs like the Acoustic ‘Absolute Reality’ in its proper place alongside ‘Caroline Isenberg’ is sweet (but I still can do without the progtastic mix of ‘Strength’) I do however have to concede that the single version of ‘Spirit’ just doesn’t seem right at only four minutes. Now I wouldn’t have admitted that back in ’85, no chance.
there is a second CD in this epic collection which pulls together the Absolute tour flexi with the rehearsals where they blast through some pretty ropey versions of songs like ‘Get It On’ as well as a top version of ‘Dawn Chorus’ without those keyboards. Whilst Twist does his best Moon the Loon on ‘Summertime Blues’ even if Peters hasn’t a clue of the lyrics, it matters not. They even open up their hard rockin side with a metal as fuck ‘Burn’ complete with the laughter such a tune deserved, (good on you boys).
The ‘Strength’ with added lyrics which sound just weird (well done for not running with these, “over the rainbow, I can hear you now”Lyrics) Michael?
Throughout the jam sessions, the one thing that shines is how much fun the four of them were having just playing music and hanging with mates doing something they possibly thought was never going to happen or places they could only dream about going were now a deserved reality.
It’s funny the songs that I love from the record are the ones jammed live and hardly altered and ‘One Step Closer’ was and still is one hell of a song and the live jam of it on this CD is mega. When a band hit that groove no matter how its arranged may it be acoustic – full band – whatever, songs like ‘Closer’ are timeless and from the first time I heard it, it was The Alarm in a nutshell. Just four minutes full of passion, bristling with energy and Dave Sharps finest few minutes as a songwriter. from the breakdown to the build it back up its a magnificent song then and still is now and this is the best version.
Its no secret my love of everything Rod The Mod from The Faces to Leopard print trousers. I was always loving The Alarm having a go at ‘Maggie May’ a song I think I first heard them do in the Marquee Club back in the midst of time. hearing it here is a thing of beauty as is the politicly charged ‘Stand Down Mergret’ and ‘Maggies Farm’ thrown in for good measure (I’m always down for a bit of Thatcher-bashing). Hearing the Brass Band warming up is a bit weird but I did quite enjoy the live version of ‘Walk Forever’ but don’t tell my wife.
So, That’s the CDs dealt with now onto the Vinyl. Ok, I won’t go on too much honest. (Well I did say I was a Fanboy and Classic Rock, Uncut or Record Collector won’t give The Alarm the attention they deserve much to their eternal shame)
The second record features nine demos for the original album concept of ‘Absolute Reality’ including three previously unreleased songs ‘Sons Of Divorce’, ‘Black Side Of Fortune’ and ‘Memorial Day’. ‘Strength’ engineer Nigel Luby was at the desk for these songs and it features early versions of ‘Knife Edge’ and ‘Majority’ both with different lyrics that take some getting used to for us fanboys as well as the original version of ‘Deeside’ which was then known as ‘Steeltown’. But it’s great to hear how the record grew and morphed into what was finally released. If I’m honest I prefer this production its got grit and more like the band sounded live its got some of the gloss that made the commercial record radio-friendly stripped away and its all the better for it. ‘Sons Of Divorce’ sounds great and you wonder why this was shelved. ‘One Step’ always was and still is a thing of beauty great lyrics – great arrangement – great delivery. Fantastic to hear this take on it. A few lyric changes to get your noggin’ round but it’s worth it for ‘Black Side Of Fortune’.
The album also includes two other unreleased demos being ‘In The Cold Light Of Day’ (which was originally written for The Who’s Roger Daltrey), and Dave Sharp’s ‘River Still To Cross’. Something of huge interest to Alarm fans from back in the day no doubt about it and what makes this collection so special.
I make no apologies for waffling on because for me its what make this crazy business so special and why I think about music pretty much from the moment I wake until I finally rest my head. A hugely enjoyable package for fans and whilst it might not have such strong appeal to casual fans but it’s this kind of attention to detail that fans of bands love and I’m lucky it’s “my band”, whilst I currently own more copies of the original studio albums than it is healthy to admit to, due to worn out copies or one copy picking up an annoying click during the quiet bit of ‘Spirit Of 76’ or I needed the picture disc then this is a most welcome addition to that collection. These days I look after my records correctly like any responsible parent or grown-up should unlike back in my youth. My advice is don’t delay it get on the link and buy it you absolutely won’t regret it. Ladies and Gentlemen the ‘Strength’ Well is well and truly drained along with the Boston show that is coming out in April for RSD. Fill yer boots.
So, Now the wait begins for the ‘Eye Of The Hurricane’ Treatment and another ‘war and piece’ length review. We’ll keep you posted. Keep the faith.
Climb in the Delorian and set your clock to the ’80s because The Alarm has been busy overseeing their back catalogue this past twelve months and this coming week sees the band reissue a remastered ‘Strength’ album. they’ve also remastered the video for the lead and title track ‘Strength’
The video was shot at Jacob Street Studios (a former dog biscuit factory in the East End of London), during the month of September 1985.
Directed by Nick Morris and produced by Fiona O’Mahoney, the video perfectly reflects the lyrical content in that it’s predominantly dark theme is interspersed with bursts of hopeful colour.
“The Strength video marked the first time that we worked with a stylist”, says Mike Peters. “Nick Morris the director wanted us to dress in a way that would fit with the monochromatic film look he was after, and so wanted us all to adopt a certain dress code. Working with the stylist (that he brought in), wasn’t something we were particularly comfortable with, but the girl in charge soon put us at our ease and found some great pieces to add to the black and white high contrast look Nick wanted to achieve. I absolutely loved the jacket she found, which was loaned from a high-end bespoke clothing designer in the fashion district behind Oxford Circus. I’d been allowed to keep it for the live television appearance on Saturday Superstore on the weekend after the video shoot and desperately wanted to keep it for the tour, but the designer wouldn’t sell as they wanted it for their fashion show in Paris. Dave is wearing a shirt from Johnsons, a then super hip rock and roll clothing store at the World’s End area of the Kings Road in Chelsea. His ubiquitous leather jeans which he wore all through the Strength tour and beyond, were from the (I kid you not), hard to find London Leatherman underground fetish clothing store on Queenstown Road, Battersea. Nigel is wearing a pretty dandy high collared shirt and cravat which made him look very distinguished and Eddie is sporting a black satin jacket that he had worn on his wedding day a few weeks earlier”.
Strength 1985 -1986 – An Oral History Updated begins serialisation from this Monday
In other Alarm news tickets for the winter tour are here – and onsale now
03.10.19 ABERDAREColiseum Tickets
04.10.19 FLEETThe Harlington Tickets
05.10.19 COLCHESTERArts Centre Tickets
12.10.19 SELBYTown Hall Tickets
19.10.19 CRICKHOWELLClarence Hall Tickets
23.10.19 BROMSGROVE Artrix Tickets
24.10.19 SWINDON Arts Centre Tickets
25.10.19 KINGSKERSWELL Church Tickets
26.10.19 NEWBURY Arlington Arts Tickets
31.10.19 TRINGThe Court Theatre Tickets
01.11.19 NEWBRIDGEMemo Tickets
02.11.19 PORTSMOUTH Wedgewood Rooms Tickets
03.11.19 SHREWSBURYTheatre Severn Tickets
08.11.19 DERBYThe Venue Tickets
09.11.19 DARWENLibrary Theatre Tickets
14.11.19 BURYThe Met Tickets
15.11.19 GATESHEADThe Sage Theatre Tickets
19.11.19 LIVERPOOL Epstein Theatre Tickets
20.11.19 LEEDS Brudenell Tickets
21.11.19 EDINBURGHThe Caves Tickets
22.11.19 ABERDEENThe Lemon Tree Tickets
23.11.19 PERTHJoan Knight Studio Tickets
29.11.19 STOWMARKETJohn Peel Centre Tickets
Peters heads out on epic winter tour around the UK and back again. Beginning on October 3rd 2019, The Alarm lead singer and songwriter Mike Peters, will present The Alarm – Hurricane of Change 30th Anniversary Acoustic Tour throughout the UK (see dates below), performing in many British towns that have never featured on previous tour itineraries!The tour will honour The Alarm’s late 1980’s trilogy of iconic album’s ‘Eye Of The Hurricane’, ‘Electric Folklore’ and ‘Change’, and will feature intimate acoustic arrangements of some of The Alarm’s most famous songs such as Rain In The Summertime (1987 – International Top 20 Hit), Sold Me Down The River (1989 – Number 1 Rock Song in the USA) and A New South Wales (1990 UK Top 40), alongside a host of Alarm standards as captured on the 1988 live album ‘Electric Folklore’ including ‘Spirit Of ’76’ and ‘Blaze Of Glory’.
“This tour presents a great opportunity to share The Alarm’s music in some new towns and many great new venues across the UK”, says Mike Peters. “The Alarm has always had a tremendous rapport with people from all over Britain, and this time I’ll be making the journey to some of those places whose people normally have to travel to hear our music. Along the way, I’m looking forward to playing in all kinds of auditoriums from theatres to churches, arts centers to music studios. I can’t wait.”
Tickets for the Hurricane Of Change Tour will go on sale this Friday, March 8th from 10 am UK Time.
03.10.19 ABERDARE Coliseum
04.10.19 FLEET The Harlington
05.10.19 COLCHESTER Arts Centre
11.10.19 HOLMFIRTH Picturedrome
12.10.19 SELBY Town Hall
19.10.19 CRICKHOWELL Clarence Hall
23.10.19 BROMSGROVE Artrix
24.10.19 SWINDON Arts Centre
25.10.19 KINGSKERSWELL Church
26.10.19 NEWBURY Arlington Arts
31.10.19 TRING The Court Theatre
01.11.19 NEWBRIDGE Memo
02.11.19 PORTSMOUTH Wedgewood Rooms
03.11.19 SHREWSBURY Theatre Severn
08.11.19 DERBY The Venue
09.11.19 DARWEN Library Theatre
14.11.19 BURY The Met
15.11.19 GATESHEAD The Sage Theatre
19.11.19 LIVERPOOL Epstein Theatre
20.11.19 LEEDS Brudenell
21.11.19 EDINBURGH The Caves
22.11.19 ABERDEEN The Lemon Tree
23.11.19 PERTH Joan Knight Studio
29.11.19 STOWMARKET John Peel Centre
30 years ago, as Mike Peters undertook a creative song-writing journey through the heart of his home country – Wales and across the UK, the Berlin Wall would fall and Europe itself, would plunge into a period of enormous and seismic change. Caught in the middle of this political maelstrom, Mike Peters and the Alarm recorded the albums ‘Eye of The Hurricane’ (1987), Electric Folklore (1988), and ‘Change’ (1989), each of which would, in their own way, capture the essence of these most turbulent times.
The Hurricane of Change tour will be performed solo with a first set dedicated to ‘Eye Of The Hurricane’ followed by a second performance of songs from the ‘Change’ album then a third set featuring music from The Alarm’s classic live recording ‘Electric Folklore”.
“I have always seen these three albums as an Alarm trilogy”, says Mike Peters. “A lot happened to the band and the world, during the writing and recording sessions from 1987-1990. As one decade bled into another, the themes of response and resolve to contend with uncertain times are running through the core of each and every album. Played together these songs tell their own story, and with the tumultuous times Europe and the World can expect to face in the coming months and years, are still as relevant today as when they were first written.”
After a pretty decent Friday, it was time for the main event. entering the Arena early Peters played the lucky first few hundred a sneak preview of a track off the next album and taking some questions from the audience and a few requests it was on with the show as Ryan Hamilton was up first. Accompanied tonight by his piano player Carol Hodge Ryan sadly was without his Harlequin Ghosts which was a shame but with the audience starting to turn up and the Alarm audience being notoriously partisan some might see it as a tough crowd because lets be honest here a lot of these people are here to see one man and hear his songs which is fine but I can’t help but feel they might be kinda missing out, anyway. There are some in tonight who were no doubt impressed by his stint on the recent Alarm tour and want to see and hear what he might have to offer stripped down to acoustic guitar and piano so after a couple of unfamiliar new tunes he tried the old trick of playing something he knew most people in here would know and like so playing ‘Desire’ by U2 was a good move which brought a few people in further to investigate.
Its fair to say Ryan can talk and when time is of the essence there is a balance to strike and I think Ryan was acutely aware of this as he referred to the very same problem but having banter is great and endearing but I want to hear what you’ve got sir so ‘Smarter’ sounded great as did ‘Karaoke With No Crowd’ now we were getting somewhere Hamilton has clearly enjoyed his time hanging with Team Alarm and it was great to see him perform at the Gathering maybe next time come back and bring those other three with you and rock the house because the set was brief and by the time ‘Raise Your Hands’ was played we were just warming up.
Ok also on the bill tonight was 80’s pop-rock combo Then Jerico or as they were called Mark Shaws Then Jerico. Now I’ll hold my hands up and admit that growing up through the 80’s I was obviously aware of who Then Jerico was and I believe one of my siblings did indeed own ‘Big Area’ but I never investigated their music and they weren’t my thing at all. Shaw had a lot of energy on stage much like he did in the ’80s and to be fair he didn’t look like the years have been unkind to him and yes, of course, they played ‘The Motive’ and saved ‘Big Area’ til the end and no doubt some ladies seemed jolly pleased they played and got the chance to ‘Mam Dance’ a little.
right onto the main event and tonight, the stage is decked out in tin foil. Why? I have no idea but it was all shiny and when the band took the stage in matching jackets they must have been chuffed when the house lights tried to cook them at what must have seemed 190 without being fan assisted.
With the line up of Smiley on the drums, James on Bass and occasional guitar and mikes wife Jules playing keyboards the main bulk of the stage was Peters as he ran from left to right singing into the three microphones on the front of the stage. Now I’ve seen this line up perform at Cardiff University and felt underwhelmed but then a short while later they played the Thekla in Bristol same line up different set and were bloody superb so I didn’t have a clue what to expect again tonight maybe it would be down to what the setlist was as to how my mood would change. I do think I’d got used to James playing the guitar which to be fair he does superbly on old and new alarm track and I always loved Craig Adams style and his bass thump was thunderous and really added energy to any live show not to say James isn’t good (am I digging a hole here I can’t climb out of?) anyway maybe I feel there are talents not being 100% utilised here maybe that’s my take on things but like I said this line up has also turned in some fantastic shows hell last years Saturday night was one of the best in twenty-seven years. Anyway, I do enjoy hearing both classics and new material whereas there are always a lot of attendees who just want to hear the classics and some even after all these years crave the original line up and turn up in the hope that this year will be the year it happens, haha. sadly not this year again ‘Coming Backwards’ sounds good and I do like ‘Peace Now’. From the last album ’13, Dead Raindeers’ was one of my favourites and it’s a nice riff. ‘Sold Me Down the River’ is up next and then its in the round for Peters who leaves the main stage to play ‘a few off ‘Declaration’ in the shape of ‘white Cross’ and ‘the Deceiver’ he then just about manages to knock out ‘Cenotaph’ before the gremlin get into the PA but not for the only time they rear their head.
The front of house sound decides it’s going to down tools. Anyway, Peters loves a challenge and tonight he decides to go out into the audience with his guitar and voice and move from side to side climbing into the seated area and sing ‘One Guitar’ or at least get the audience around him to sing it because only those near could hear. Still no sign of the PA coming back on as people begin to rummage round for coins for the meter to hopefully get the PA back on anyway being the resourceful sort PEters then rolls out a rendition of ‘Merry Christmas (War Is Over)’ yup a weird one on me too considering its February but hey why not.
With the impromptu break in proceedings, it means the band has to once again build up a head of steam so what better way than to break into ‘Spirit Of 76’ and we’re into the home straight but not before ‘Beautiful’ is aired from the excellent ‘Viral Black’ album. the band cruise into my favourite Alarm song ‘Where Were You Hiding When The Storm Broke’ to give it it’s full title or ‘WWYHWTSB’ as my notes say. which leaves 68 Guns and off they go.
I had no clue as to how long tonight’s encore might last I mean it could have been longer than the main set who knows nothing would surprise me at a Gathering. So I was surprised to be fair as this year there was no Craig Adams and the encore was a lean four songs ‘Neutral’, followed by ‘Strength’ then ‘Two Rivers’ then it was everyone on stage for a romp through ‘Get Down And Get With It’ oh and did I mention there was another power out? Oh well shit happens and the good ones don’t get phased by it they roll with the punches and that’s exactly what Peters did and once again it was a memorable Saturday night partly down to how they coped with adversity and partly because there are so many great songs to chose from I’m glad Mike writes new material and mixes up old with new and also is happy to play around with classic arrangments but not for the sake of it is why I keep going back, its always about the music – the music comes first and throughout my adult life the Gathering has been a constant good thing and I always look forward to the next one, as we debate what might go on and who will be there Its such a special Gathering for one of the hardest working musicians in the business whos taken the knocks and always got up and delivered. sure there have been off nights but who hasn’t one thing you always get with The Alarm is 100% and considering I’ve been privileged to see them play well into the three figures and I’ve heard ’68 Guns’ more times than should be legal I’ll be sat by the computer the second Gathering 2020 tickets go up for sale. Bring it on its yet again been a pleasure and never a chore.
Another year another venture North for my annual trip for the Gathering as we head for Gathering Twenty Seven and this year’s festivities seem to coincide with the cold snap as the UK is besieged by snow as we struggle to trek North under the half an inch of snow that seems to have landed on high ground but we struggle on regardless as we maintain a=our fine record of attending every single one outside Rhyl town hall So that’ll be Twenty Five without fail. We’ve seen some amazing performances over the years culminating in last years mammoth Saturday Night and a set that had an hour-long encore! beat that Springsteen.
We enter the arena for Friday nights performances and as if by magic Dave Sharp is taking the stage for his solo performance. Now I’ll admit that Dave is a little like marmite and there are those who love him and his folky noodlings and those that aren’t fussed and as much as I love the guy and ‘Hard Travellin’ was and still is a fantastic piece of work and one of the best albums the Alarm or associated members ever made since then his work has left me cold and his performances of which I’ve seen many have been tepid. Its a tough gig even for Dave doing the Gathering as a lot of people just want to hear old Alarm songs and drink and as many people catch up on the Friday its not until Dave is Joined by Mike Peters that things get really interesting. There is a respect and a love that is evident considering what these brothers from different mothers went through but there is also a tension in the air and they seem to accept both and it helps create some magic when the guitars are turned up and the mics are switched on.
Tonight sees the pair begin with a fine rendition of ‘Bells Of Rhymney’ quickly followed by a fantastic ‘Gasoline Alley’ some great stories are told about their pre-recordings and the songs they used to play together when they started this journey and ending on ‘Get By With A Little Help From My Friends’ seemed to cement that respect for each other and what they have achieved.
We get a great ‘Shout At The Devil’ followed by ‘For Freedom’ and ‘Marching On’ and for me such a magical time in music comes flooding back with such classics getting played by James Stevenson, Smiley and Peters even if James seems to be having some technical difficulties the flow of the set isn’t broken and playing in the round is working a treat . As the Bass synth starts for ‘Howling wind’ my mind takes me back to some of those early shows and the feeling I had as a young man and that steady bass vibrated through the floor as sharpie played the riff on ‘Howling Wind’ I’m caught with my thoughts where have all those years gone its well over half my life ago and I’m brought back to more recent times after ’68 Guns’ because James and Smiley leave the stage for peters to wander down a wormhole of early solo songs as the excellent and underplayed ‘Poetic Justice’ gets a rare outing the same can be said for ‘It Just Don’t get any Better Than This’ and latter ‘Feel Free’ as far as Fridays go this one is shaping up rather nicely thanks.
James and Smiley return to the round for a blast through ‘Drunk And Disorderly’ and ‘We Are The Light’ and its a delight to hear ‘Superchannel’ and ‘Rocking In The Free World’ for the first time in a long time. With the clock ticking and beauty sleep needed for a long Saturday it only left Mr Sharp to return to the stage for a memorable slog through ‘Knocking On Heavens Door’. Friday was in the bag, done and dusted and as far as Fridays go that was easily the best for many a year possibly since Coloursound made their debut. Bring on Saturday.
The band’s classic 1985 album Strength has been expanded, remastered and revised and will be made available for pre-release online and in record stores worldwide from today February 4th 2019 onwards.
All titles have been remastered from the original master tapes by mastering engineer Pete Maher (u2, White Stripes…) under the supervision of Mike Peters.
The comprehensive re-mastering process has been undertaken to allow the band’s music to fully embrace digital and online streaming services and ensure the music of The Alarm can be listened to by future generations as intended by the band when recorded and committed to tape for all time.
Strength 1985-1986 is being released through The Twenty-First Century Recording Company – which has been ‘home’ to all Mike Peters and The Alarm music since 1994.
Strength 1985-1986 is being officially released to record stores on March 15th 2019, in both Double CD and Vinyl LP formats and also on all online music streaming services.
Painstakingly put together by Mike Peters from original sources, the ‘Strength 1985-1986’ CD Edition brings together all three original 1985/86 Alarm singles and B-sides from the era, two of which have never been released in CD or digital formats, including the ‘Strength 7″ single version, and the ‘Spirit Of ’76 7″ Single version.
Strength 1985-1986 has also has been restored to its original 1985 running order with the US version featuring on the CD that includes the album session version of ‘Absolute Reality’.
STRENGTH 1985-1986 CD Editon – Features the US album along with the original 1985 7″ version of Strength (with the guitar/vocal beginning), that has never been issued on CD before along with the 1986 7″ single version of ‘Spirit Of ’76’ which is also making its first-ever appearance on CD. All four original ‘Strength’ period B-sides are included also. The Second disc features 22 previously unreleased album session recordings including outtake versions (with different lyrics and guitar parts), for every song on Strength including an outtake of the unreleased electric version of ‘One Step Closer To Home’. An in-studio jam session of spontaneous and impromptu covers of Led Zeppelin, The Who, Free, T-Rex, Lou Reed and Deep Purple are featured between tracks along with a complete run through of the previously unreleased live in the studio version of Rod Stewart’s Maggie May which segues into re-workings of The Beats ‘Stand Down Margaret’ and Bob Dylan’s ‘Maggie’s Farm’, providing a fascinating insight into The Alarm working together in the studio on the way to creating their magnum opus.
STRENGTH 1985-1986 CD ONE – Original US album, Singles and B-sides Remastered.
KNIFE EDGE [Album Master] STRENGTH [Album Master] DAWN CHORUS [Album Master] SPIRIT OF ’76 [Album Master] DEESIDE [Album Master] FATHER TO SON [Album Master] ONLY THE THUNDER [Album Master] THE DAY THE RAVENS LEFT THE TOWER [Album Master] ABSOLUTE REALITY [Album Master – CD / Digital ONLY] WALK FOREVER BY MY SIDE [Album Master] STRENGTH [7″ SINGLE VERSION] MAJORITY [Strength B-SIDE] STRENGTH [12″ POWER MIX] ABSOLUTE REALITY [IMPROMPTU ACOUSTIC VERSION] SPIRIT OF ’76 [7″ SINGLE VERSION] CAROLINE ISENBERG [Knife Edge B-SIDE]
STRENGTH 1985-1986 CD TWO [ALTERNATIVE STRENGTH ALBUM VERSIONS AND STUDIO SESSION OUT TAKES]
INTRO GET IT ON [OUTTAKE] DAWN CHORUS [OUTTAKE FROM ROUNDHOUSE STUDIOS] SUMMERTIME BLUES [OUTTAKE] KNIFE EDGE [ROUGH MIX FROM ROUNDHOUSE STUDIOS] ALARM ALARM / RADAR LOVE [OUTTAKE] ONLY THE THUNDER [OUTTAKE FROM MARCUS STUDIOS] BURN [OUTTAKE] SPIRIT OF ’76 [OUTTAKE FROM MARCUS STUDIOS] WALK ON THE WILD SIDE [OUTTAKE] FOR TOMORROW [OUTTAKE FROM MARCUS STUDIOS] VICIOUS [OUTTAKE] DEESIDE [OUTTAKE FROM MARCUS STUDIOS] ALL RIGHT NOW [OUTTAKE] ABSOLUTE REALITY [OUTTAKE FROM MARCUS STUDIOS] UNKNOWN [OUTTAKE] THE DAY THE RAVENS LEFT THE TOWER [OUTTAKE FROM MARCUS STUDIOS] COMMUNICATION BREAKDOWN [OUTTAKE] ONE STEP CLOSER TO HOME [OUTTAKE FROM MARCUS STUDIOS] MAGGIE MAY / MAGGIE’S FARM / STAND DOWN MARGARET [OUTTAKE] BRASS BAND [OUTTAKE] WALK FOREVER BY MY SIDE [OUTTAKE FROM MARCUS STUDIOS] UNTITLED JAM SESSION [OUTTAKE] STRENGTH [OUTTAKE FROM MARCUS STUDIOS] OUTRO
‘Strength 1985-1986’ Vinyl Edition also features many additional and unseen photographs exclusive to the format and the vinyl LP has exclusive unreleased demo versions of what would have been the ‘Absolute Reality’ album.
NB: All additional and unreleased tracks on the CD are EXCLUSIVE to the CD format.
The Alarm’s most iconic and best selling album Strength is reissued on Double Vinyl LP with the original 1985 UK album pressing.
All tracks have been remastered from the original master tapes by Mike Peters and Pete Maher with extensive sleeve notes and quotes from original band members, plus a host of previously unseen photographs.
SIDE ONE & TWO – Features the UK album remastered from the original 1985 mix and running order.
SIDE THREE & FOUR – Features 9 demo tapes for the original album concept of Absolute Reality including 3 previously unreleased songs ‘Sons Of Divorce’, ‘Black Side Of Fortune’ and ‘Memorial Day’. All the demos were recorded with ‘Strength’ album recording engineer Nigel Luby and feature raw versions of Knife Edge and We Are Majority both with different lyrics along with the original version of ‘Deeside’ which was then known as ‘Steeltown’. The album also includes the Strength’ era soundcheck demo of the title song and two other unreleased studio demos of ‘In The Cold Light Of Day’ (which was originally written for The Who’s Roger Daltrey), and Dave Sharp’s ‘River Still To Cross’.
LPSIDE ONE – ORIGINAL UK ALBUM Remastered
KNIFE EDGE [Album Master] STRENGTH [Album Master] DAWN CHORUS [Album Master] SPIRIT OF ’76 [Album Master]
LPSIDE TWO – ORIGINAL UK ALBUM Remastered
DEESIDE [Album Master] FATHER TO SON [Album Master] ONLY THE THUNDER [Album Master] THE DAY THE RAVENS LEFT THE TOWER [Album Master] WALK FOREVER BY MY SIDE [Album Master]
LPSIDE THREE – [ABSOLUTE REALITY ALBUM DEMOS]
ABSOLUTE REALITY [Demo] SONS OF DIVORCE [Demo] ONE STEP CLOSER TO HOME [Demo] THE DAY THE RAVENS LEFT THE TOWER [Demo] STEELTOWN [Demo] WE ARE MAJORITY [Demo]
LPSIDE FOUR – [ABSOLUTE REALITY ALBUM DEMOS PLUS SOUNDCHECK AND STUDIO DEMOS]
KNIFE EDGE [Demo] MEMORIAL DAY [Demo] BLACK SIDE OF FORTUNE [Demo] GIVE ME LOVE [Soundcheck Demo] IN THE COLD LIGHT OF DAY [Pluto Studios Demo] RIVER STILL TO CROSS [Marcus Studio Demo]
NB: All additional and unreleased tracks on the LP are EXCLUSIVE to the LP format.
STRENGTH 1985-1986 – DIGITAL RELEASE
The Alarm’s most iconic and best selling album Strength is reissued digitally with the original 1985 US album pressing which includes the band’s preferred version of Absolute Reality (It was left off the UK Version of the album).
DIGITAL RELEASE – Features the US album track listing along with previously unreleased and alternative 7″ mixes of 1985’s Strength single that has never been heard before, along with an unreleased alternative 7″ mix of the 1986 ‘Spirit Of ’76’ single. Also included is the band’s preferred ‘lost’ mix of the Knife Edge single B-side ‘Caroline Isenberg’, along with a recently discovered 1986 radio mix of ‘Absolute Reality’ that has never been released until now.
The digital formats also include a remastered version of the Absolute Flexi Disc recording that was originally issued as part of the band’s tour program and remastered versions of all the ‘live’ tracks that were used as b-sides for the 1986 ‘Spirit Of ’86’ UK ONLY single release and also the ‘Live For Life’ US Only compilation album track ‘Howling Wind’ which was sourced from the same live concert in Boston from November 9th 1985.
21C105 ORIGINAL 1985 US ALBUM, UNRELEASED EXTRAS AND LIVE B-SIDES
KNIFE EDGE [Album Master] STRENGTH [Album Master] DAWN CHORUS [Album Master] SPIRIT OF ’76 [Album Master] DEESIDE [Album Master] FATHER TO SON [Album Master] ONLY THE THUNDER [Album Master] THE DAY THE RAVENS LEFT THE TOWER [Album Master] ABSOLUTE REALITY [Album Master – CD / Digital ONLY] WALK FOREVER BY MY SIDE [Album Master] ONE STEP CLOSER TO HOME [Radio Session Version] WALK FOREVER BY MY SIDE [Radio Session Version] ABSOLUTE FLEXI DISC STRENGTH 7″ [Unreleased alternative single mix] SPIRIT OF ’76 [UNRELEASED ALT SINGLE VERSION] CAROLINE ISENBERG [UNRELEASED Band Mix] ABSOLUTE REALITY [UNRELEASED 1986 RADIO MIX] WHERE WERE YOU HIDING WHEN THE STORM BROKE? [LIVE] DEESIDE [LIVE] HOWLING WIND [LIVE] SIXTY EIGHT GUNS [LIVE] KNOCKING ON HEAVEN’S DOOR [LIVE]
NB: All additional and unreleased tracks on the Digital Format are EXCLUSIVE to the Digital format.
‘Strength 1985-1986′ will be able to pre-order from Monday, February 4th in CD, LP and Limited Edition Formats at thealarm.com
‘Strength 1985-1986′ is also available to pre-order from international stores and to pre-save in its digital format online
Foulmouthed Filthy February or something like that.
February began with a road trip to see a band who for me has been my go-to pilgrimage in North Wales for The Gathering weekend for the last quarter of a century (almost). A weekend celebrating the music of Mike Peters & The Alarm reached a high point on the Saturday night as a Four-hour performance rounded off an impressive weekend. I’ve enjoyed going for almost quarter of a century where special guests have included Billy Duffy, Craig Adams, Steve Diggle, Pete Wylie, Dave sharp, Ian McNabb, Eddie McDonald and a whole bunch of other musicians I’ve forgotten and I’ve managed to attend without missing a single year.
I must admit the thought of such a marathon performance on a Saturday night filled me with dread can any fans watch for four hours? The answer is a resounding yes! It flew by and was one of the best Saturday night shows I’ve ever seen Peters perform especially when he was joined on stage by Craig Adams for the final hour (that still doesn’t sound right – the final hour). Roll on February 2019 when I can do it all again.
Staying on the live front, Other RPM scribes went to some far-flung countries to catch their Rock n Roll with Craggy taking in an excellent show from Fertile Hump live at Kabinet Muz, in Brno. but a large gathering of writers took in a show or two when the Damned went around the UK this time with the added excitement of Paul Gray back in the fold for the first time in decades which was rather nice. Seeing the Damned with a new album in tow and playing sold out shows all across the UK in decent sized venues was awesome and it has to be said so were the band. Gray seemed to give them a right shot in the arm just in time for this stint of dates was easily the highlight of February. But with the recent news of our Brother Scott Sorry battling a serious illness the Rock and Roll community rallied and a series of benefit shows were arranged to raise funds for Scott at such a difficult time what with the American Health system being what it is The likes of Role Models, Main Grains and The Empty Page rocked out at The Parish to rave reviews whilst Wakefield Warehouse saw the Professionals, the Wildhearts, Massive Wagons and Sonic Boom Six take care of business and send Positive vibes across the ocean as well as money raised at these spectacular shows.
Before Feb was done The UK also saw the return of Bullets And Octane and Ben attended a memorable show in York that proved that Gene Louis had lost none of the fire he had inside his beating heart when he first toured the UK.
As for recordings to hit the shelves, historically early in the year, things open slowly in the music business and January being about new resolutions before finally seeing new releases hit the shelves, so, Feb saw an avalanche of really big hitters for RPM writers. We had the release of Imperial State Electric’s Live album ‘Anywhere Loud’ as well as some garage awesomeness from the likes of the Cavemen and The Bellrays getting round to release records.
Several writers were also impressed by the latest Buffalo Tom long player ‘Quiet And Peace’ with Craggy picking it as one of his albums of the year. February belonged to a few foul-mouthed releases, the first came in the shape of Jonesey with their self titled long player with its down n dirty sleazy punk rock n roll and song titles and lyrics that would make a sailor blush no doubt about that. But one of the years highlights hit us like a sledgehammer between the eyes has to be Motherfuckin’ Motherfuckers with ‘MFFFMF’ (I think that’s the correct amount of F’s) inspired by Supershit 666 and the idea of some friends from the most splendid Bitch Queens and Oz and Lee from the mighty Hip Priests recording a mini album packed full of songs that were written in the shortest of times. I’ll let Lee Love tell you, good people, what happened, ” Ah the dumb Lee Love story. Well, me ‘n’ Oz went To Basel for a few days to hang out with our mates from Bitch Queens and we ended up getting pissed (as you do) and I was winding them up saying I could write and get em to record a mini album in a day. So we went into the Queens studio the next day and played through everything once maybe twice and hey presto it was done”. Creating that Copters supershit 666 vibe.
To be fair this pack of loons rose to the occasion and absolutely knocked it out of the park in fact they didn’t just knock it out of the park they followed out tied it to the back of their pick up truck dragged it around the wood then kicked any life left in it out then did it all again for shits and giggles. An absolute giant of punk rock n fuckin roll – make no mistake about that! Motherfuckin’ Motherfucker should and one day will rightfully be seen as a classic of its genre.
Also, The motherfuckin’ Dwarves were taking back the night in February as well and a jolly fine record that was. Maybe it should be renamed Fuckin’ foulmouthed February from now on. What a month. Outstanding stuff.
Recently signed to Little Steven’s Wicked Cool Records label, Ryan Hamilton and his newly renamed band The Harlequin Ghosts are an exciting proposition, facing exciting times.
Recently announcing they would be knocking the headline tours on the head for a while to concentrate on other opportunities, I didn’t think I would be catching them for a while here in the UK. Yet, here they are on a high profile tour opening for Welsh legends The Alarm, which should hopefully widen their appeal to larger audiences than they have been reaching in recent times. It seems the image change and the name change is no coincidence, as this band is stepping things up to the big league.
There’s a glint of something different in Ryan Hamilton’s eyes tonight. A new sense of determination and seriousness to his delivery. There’s less of the between-song jokes and banter, although he is still obsessed about learning new English swear words.
Whether it’s the matching sharp suits and the heavier (yet still catchy) material, I don’t know, but this bunch of musicians seem more cohesive now, more like dare I say it…a band.
Faced with an over-loud and dodgy sound mix and an audience unfamiliar with their material, Ryan Hamilton & The Harlequin Ghosts are up against it tonight and they rise to the challenge. When a band are up against the wall with something to prove, when they have to fight for attention, that is when a band are at their best.
So out of the relative comfort zone of a room of people who will sing along to your mighty fine power pop ditties, the band reel off song after song to a small but growing crowd of The Alarm fans, sipping their beers waiting for their heroes. Maybe tonight, just a few of those fans may have found a new band to check out in the morning.
It’s a good job Ryan and the guys have the songs then. ‘Karaoke With No Crowd’ with it’s over cool “whoo hoo’s”, the sublime power pop of ‘Records and Needles’ and the following ‘Medicine’ should be enough to reel in even the staidest of observers.
Ryan, his hair in plaits and wide-brimmed hat, making him look like some spaghetti western preacher leading his congregation. He uses his hands to gesture as he addresses the audience, whether playing the guitar or just in control of the mic. The Tom Petty like drawl of ‘Never Should Have Moved To LA’ is mighty fine as always, they then transport us back to Texas with the country twang of ‘Oh My God’.
Introducing final song ‘Freak Flag’ Ryan tells us he is the living proof there are second chances, that it is possible to get a second chance at the rock ‘n’ roll dream. Tonight’s performance is a testament to a rock ‘n’ roll survivor and long may he keep returning to our shores. A sublime set from the probably the best support band you will see this year or next.
Now, Mike Peters is a true survivor and a legendary rock ‘n’ roll talent. He may not be as famous or as revered as Bono or Springsteen, but he has the songs, the road-weary years of experience and the passionate fan base to match.
I guess I’d call myself a casual fan of The Alarm, and I’ve never seen them live, so tonight is a truly monumental experience for me, as I never imagined they would be this good.
This live incarnation of The Alarm, with Mike Peters on vocals and acoustic, his wife Jules on keyboards, longtime Alarm guitarist come bassist James Stevenson and drummer Steve ‘Smiley’ Barnard is as good as it gets.
Anthem follows anthem tonight as Peters and the gang dig deep into the 35 years plus back catalogue to deliver a set that will satisfy even the most casual of fans. From opener ‘Blaze Of Glory’ to main set closer ’68 Guns’, it’s a masterclass of rousing, alternative rock ‘n’ roll. From the ’80s, through the ’90s and beyond, all bases are covered.
Peters has free reign of the stage as the rest of the band are pretty much rooted to the spot. I’ve never seen any frontman use 3 vocals mics for a performance. The only advantage I can see if for the vocalist to reach every corner of the venue, so as not to be confined to one spot due to him being the sole guitar player. Fair play, he uses it to its full advantage, switching between left, right and centre stage at will during songs.
It’s an energetic and passionate performance as the man plays to his crowd, and The Alarm fans are as passionate as it gets. Being down the front, I witness it firsthand; 2 ladies of a certain age next to me sing and dance together having the best night of their lives, a middle aged gent in a suit jacket is reliving his youth, precariously swinging from the railing with one hand and punching the air and pointing at his hero as he mouths the words to the anthems of his youth.
This is nostalgia at its finest, people. There are no teenagers here, we are all of a certain age, gathered together to hear the songs that transport us back to a time that was simpler, better and much more fun than most of us have now. True escapism, am I right or am I wrong?
I would usually argue that no one wants to hear new songs at this sort of show, but The Alarm do have new songs and they ain’t too shabby to be fair. ‘Beautiful’ fits the bill nicely and 2 new songs bookend ‘Strength’ come encore time. ‘Neutral’ and ‘Two Rivers’ are as good as it gets and rightly deserves a place amongst the classics.
The feel of a stadium show in a small local venue, you can’t beat the power of rock ‘n’ roll old or new. Two excellent world-class bands in my local venue and certainly one of the best shows I’ve seen this year.
Whilst we’re here we’d like to point you in the direction of an incredible charity – Love Hope & Strength. if you do one thing after reading this news it should be to click here and get over to the site where incredible work is done, even Ozzy got involved with LH&S