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Sensational Alex Harvey Band

During the 70s, The Sensational Alex Harvey Band were one of the most entertaining rock bands around. Glaswegian born Alex, who had been performing recording since the late 50s/early 60s, was one of the best frontmen ever witnessed, a genuine rock'n'roll poet. Delivery and charisma was all; who else could pronounce 'Framed' with 3 syllables? With his heavy Scottish accent, every song became a story.

Teaming up with the hard rock band Tear Gas, SAHB was born, featuring the rhythm section of bassist Chris Glen and drummer Ted McKenna (both later MSG and Ian Gillan), guitarist Zal Cleminson (virtuoso clown, later of Nazareth) and pianist Hugh McKenna. The band would go on to mix hard rock with blues, glam, country and just about everything else you can imagine, scoring a huge hit with a cover of 'Delilah' along the way.

Disc one replicates the long deleted 1995 Windsong CD live BBC shows, recorded in 1972 (Paris) and 1973, now bolstered to 11 tracks. The Paris show opens with 'Midnight Moses', quite a rough performance but theatrical and enjoyable with some heavy guitar work. 'St. Anthony' is similarly beefed up, and 'Framed' as theatrical as ever. A classic track is the ridiculously titled 'There's No Lights On The Christmas Tree Mother (They're Burning Big Louie Tonight)', a story of a mobster war, capture and electrocution. 'Hole In Her Stocking' and 'Dance To The Music' finish the set. A good live show but rough round the edges, especially in the recording. The live album of a couple years later would show how the refinement became fine tuned.

The 1973 tracks open with the classic 'Faith Healer'. Saxon have based the intro to 2 songs on this one, and both sound and performance tighter than the year before. This is especially obvious on 'Midnight Moses', with its bursts of 5/4. But it's the material from the second album 'Next' that excites. From 'Faith Healer' to 'Gang Bang', 'Last Of The Teenage Idols' and 'Giddy Up A Ding Dong', it's rocking, rolling and a lot of fun. The rhythm section one of the best, ever, Zal is a guitar god (probably one of the most underrated ever) and Hugh's songwriting in support to Alex and keyboards second to none. Phew!

Disc two features some equally fine material, but is also a missed opportunity. But we'll come to that in a second.

The CD opens with two OGWT (Old Grey Whistle Test) tracks from 1973; 'Next' (a much covered song, this one unique with its tango time keeping) and 'Faith Healer'. The arrangements and performance are spot on, and essential to any SAHB fan. This really how it should be done.

OGWT 1975 and we get 'Give My Compliments To The Chef' and 'Delilah', again both superb, the band at their best. I can still picture the ludicrous synchronised dancing of Alex, Zal and Chris during the piano solo, before the fantastic guitar solo comes in. Another fine moment is the 1976 Top Of The Pops performance of 'Boston Tea Party' (a track Joe Elliot played on Radio 1, such was the band's influence).

Finally there's two more OGWT tracks in 'Pick It Up And Kick It' and 'Smouldering'.

The problem with this second disc is that it's short (only 7 tracks), and video material exists. I've seen most of it either on bootleg or various artist comps. SAHB really need a DVD of this, as the visuals are a huge part of the SAHB live experience. Hopefully that's next?


Review by Joe Geesin

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***** Out of this world | **** Pretty damn fine |
*** OK, approach with caution unless you are a fan |
** Instant bargain bin fodder | * Ugly. Just ugly

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