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By 1988 the Alarms fortunes were changing, after many years riding the rollercoaster uphill to fame and record sale success they were finding it hard to maintain the status, the rollercoaster was about to head down the other side of the hill. This album was meant in many ways to thrust them back into the public eye and reverse their fortunes on a purely commercial level it was not a success, achieving only limited chart positions on both sides of the Atlantic. As a record of their performance ability it does however get the message home that they were truely a great live act. Irrespective of the record company and its relience on record sales, this album captures a great band doing what they do best, paying live with passion, power and talent.
In recent years there have been many Alarm albums expanded for re-issue, that is had extra tracks added to fall into line with the expectations of the CD generation. This review however is of the original product which was a six track vinyl (does anyone remember vinyl?), which means that I can`t dwell on the extra songs on the later product, but hopefully the review will still give you a feel for which ever version you manage to get hold of.
Rescue Me kicks off in standard live album style, the crowd, a drumbeat and a rythymn guitar build ito the song, Mike Peters asks "are you going to rescue me?" and you`re off, the big anthemic sound of the band is up and running, a stadium rock leviathan in the very best sense of the words. The song stops and rebuilds a few times, teasing the crowd and pianos drift through the quiet moments allowing Peters to talk to his audience giving them an insight into his attitude on music, politics, life and Woody Guthrie. Even by the end of this first song you realise that the bands larger than life sound has transfered to album without a hitch, raw enough to be real and big enough to fill your soul.
A slow wash of keyboards fills the air and a voice rises
"give me love
give me hope
give me strength"
and Dave Sharps cut throat guitar riff pulls the song into the recognisable shape of Strength. A more mainstream song than the previous but still with the drama and posturing that the band have made their hallmark. Melody is the driving force in this song rather than the musical theatrics that give many of their songs their identity.
The low ended bass of Eddie MacDonald is the driving force behind Rain in the Summertime, allowing Sharp to fill in the riffs and fills which seem to come and go as he sees fit. Although in the same general area as Strength, this is very much an audience participation number, big chorus, big vocals, big attitude, making a big song.
The Alarm are best known for two songs, 68 Guns, unfortunately isnt on the album, but Spirit of 76 is. If Bruce Springstein had been from North Wales he would have almost deffinately have written this song. A tribute to friendship, the past and getting the lucky breaks, the punk spirit still lives in this band. A gentle start maximises the impact of the words, and when the rest of the band finally kick in you can almost feel the ghost of the punk spirit being exhumed, it may not have changed THE world but it changed OUR world is the message here. The song then breaks down into a dark almost spoken section, brooding guitar washes around, mournful piano is just disernable as Peters reminisces on broken dreams and lost cause only to bring it back to the optimism of the original message, life may change but your heart wont.
Permanence in Change is a slower number at times bordering on AOR, but staying on the credible side of the fence, this is the prelude to the big finish which you know is coming. It comes in the form of Blaze of Glory, the only way such a band could end a show. Twist, the drummer lays down an almost military beat as a harmonica drifts into earshot, and the massed ranks of the Alarm anthem making machine is let loose. Its lighters held aloft, fists punching the air and the audience singing in that way which causes you to lose your voice for three days...we`ve all done it.
A big ending to a big album, a big song from a larger than life band. If you want an introduction to the band, then this is a good way to start. On studio albums some of the song may seem to be a bit contrived, full of them self and a bit pompous, you here them live and it all makes perfect sense. For those of us old enough to remember, the spirit of 76 was still alive in 1988 and while band such as the Alarm are still being played,it will remain alive.
Disc #1 Tracklisting
1 Rescue Me
3 Rain in the Summertime
4 Spirit of '76
5 Permanence in Change
6 Blaze of Glory