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Thursday, 30 June 2011

The Alarm The Sound and The Fury CD

Seems almost fitting that on the 20th Anniversary of The Alarm splitting up in 1991 that through my letter box this morning should come the brand new album by The Alarm entitled 'The Sound and the Fury - 30th Anniversary Edition' on CD/DVD.

Just finished watching the DVD. Have to say that it was a really well made film by Andy Labrow documenting the making of the album. Running for an hour and a half it was loaded with insightful footage and wee interviews spots with Mike Peters.

So what of the music on the CD? Well, this is where it gets a little bit interesting. Many of the songs are of course built on 'The Alarm' sound of acoustic guitars and powerful drums, and then a nice few touches of Electric are added to fill them out (some nice work by James Stevenson from what I gathered from the DVD). Mike said that the album was born whilst out on the road with the 'Direct Action Acoustic Tour' from last year when he would step on stage without a setlist and take his cues from what songs the crowd shouted out to him. This often meant him playing some more obscure songs that rarely got an airing at an Alarm show

I'll go through it track by track and pass some comment as I go along. The * next to each title will be my rating out of 5

01 Unbreak the Promise ***
There are a few folks in Alarm world who are not overly fussed with the new rendering of this song, I have to admit I'm not one of them. I think it's not bad and it is bolstered by the singing of The Alarm Choir from The Gathering back in January this year. By the way, everyone who attended The Gathering gets a name check on the DVD and in the album artwork (another fine job done by Karl Parsons). This song is also out as single that includes a live version from The Gathering and three Alarm/Mike Peters medleys that encompass the history of the man and his band.

02 Shelter *****
I like the fact that on this album they have chosen not to go with the more well known songs of The Alarm (I guess that would have been the easy thing to do) but have taken album tracks, a couple of obscure tracks and given them a reworking. 'Shelter' actually sounds much better I think than it's original incarnation.

Shelter (Live in Bristol 19th May 2011)

03 The Rock ****
I remember this as being quite a quiet track but it's got a much beefier sound with some crunching guitars and quality drumming from Smiley.

04 Peace Agreement ***
Originally recorded as part of The Bond series (#3 Trafficking) and I guess kind of lost when putting together the 'Poppyfields' album (but then again there are a few brilliant tracks from that series which have not seen light of day - 'In The Beauty Of My Surroundings' is one I thought they would have put on either 'In The Poppyfields' or 'Under Attack'). It's not a bad song.

05 Fade In Fade Out Fade Away *****
One from the Coloursound catalog and I think this one sounds just brilliant. I hope Billy Duffy gets a chance to hear this because I think even he would be impressed by the updated sound.

06 Who's Gonna Make The Peace? **
The first of a few tracks from Mike's solo years. This was originally on the 'Breathe' album from 1995. On the original it starts off with a Cello (I think) but this new version is just Mike and his acoustic guitar until two thirds of the way through when the band kicks in. Probably not my favourite of Mike's solo but it does sound fresh on this album.

07 Strength To Strength ****
Interesting choice this one because it was never released before (though it was on the 'Change Acoustic Demos'). What I liked about this one is that it gets a full band treatment and sounds really good. The 'Demo' version showed it as song that had some potential to be good but for some unknown reason they never took it any further. I'm pleased that they included this one as today's Alarm give it the justice it deserved.

08 Back Into The System **
Released as a single as long ago as 1994 and the drum intro on this sounds better than the feedback guitars that graced the single. Not my favourite track from the album.

09 How The Mighty Fall ***
Was first released as part of the 'Change' album and it is a little bit similar to that version, though far more acoustic (and a few nice keyboard touches from Mark Taylor). Not bad at all.

10 For Freedom *****
Taking it right back to the beginning. One of the interesting things about this song is that it is actually only the second time it's ever been on an 'Studio' album by The Alarm. The first time was on the 'BBC Radio Sessions' album that came out in 2008. The song itself dates back to the 80's and so it's a miracle that it has never been recorded in the studio for release before now (it has been on several Alarm albums/collections but as a live version only). On many of the early setlists 'For Freedom' would follow 'Declaration'. The new recording actually has an original Alarm feel to it and sounds pretty impressive. Lyrically it could have been written just yesterday such is the contemporary nature of the song.

11 Only The Thunder ****
This is one song I really thought deserved to be be redone. Listening to the older version on the 'Strength' album after hearing this is like night and day.

Only The Thunder (The Gathering, Acoustic Set)

12 Howling Wind ***** (if I could give it 6 I would!)
Of all the tracks on the new album this one was the one I was actually most hesistant about. It is probably my favourite track off of the 'Declaration' album. I was pleased when watching the DVD because he said that the inspiration to do this for the album came from playing it at Rhondda Rocks at the suggestion of someone in the crowd of people who did that walk. Prior to the walk I had asked him about playing the song, so inadvertently my suggestion (and maybe someone else on that walk) contributed something to the album! Anyway, I diverted from what I was going to say. For me this is the standout track of the whole album. Everything about the way it has been recorded brings the song to life in a new and fresh way. Great drums, superb backing vocals, wonderful guitar sound and still some of the finest lyrics ever been penned for an Alarm song!
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