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Plain and Fancy

"I hope for nothing, I fear nothing, I am free"

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

The Sensational Alex Harvey Band - Live / The Penthouse Tapes (1975-76 uk, solid glam rock melted with varied tunes, double disc set)

Although the Sensational Alex Harvey Band showed off plenty of sonic firepower on studio outings like Next and Tomorrow Belongs To Me, they were always at their most ferocious in the concert arena. As a result, Live is an especially rousing and engaging addition to the group's catalog. Since the set list is almost entirely composed of time-tested favorites, it also one of their most consistent albums. The album's contents are taken from a single night's performance at the Hammersmith Odeon, and this gives it a sonic coherence that other live albums rarely capture. 

A totally committed performance from the band seals the album's appeal with its thrilling combination of heavy metal bombast and tight arrangements that carefully deploy keyboard shadings to flesh out the guitar-heavy sound. The proceedings start powerfully with "Faith Healer," an ominous rocker whose thunderous riffs take on a new level of muscle in the live arena. Other highlights include "Give My Compliments to the Chef," a sci-fi-influenced tale of societal breakdown that slowly but surely builds into a hard-rocking frenzy, and the group's cover of "Framed," which transforms the classic Leiber-Stoller tune into a twisted psychodrama where Harvey debates with the audience over his innocence. 

However, the finest track on the album is a cover: the group's surprisingly subtle version of the Tom Jones hit "Delilah" tones down the original's fevered psychodrama to create a waltz-like tune with a tongue in cheek circus atmosphere. This track is also notable because it was released as a single and became one of the group's biggest hit singles in Europe. To sum up, Live is a double-triumph for the Sensational Alex Harvey Band because it functions both as a strong live souvenir for the group's fans and also as a solid introduction to the group's highlights for the novice. 

Their 1976 "Penthouse Tapes" allowed the group to give full vent to this obsession: three of the tracks are band originals, but the rest are a series of covers that hit everything from Irving Berlin to the Osmonds to Alice Cooper.  The highlight of the band originals is"Jungle Jenny," a gender-switched Tarzan tale that sets lyrics about a lusty white goddess who drives the apes mad over a tune that mixes glam rock guitar with tribal drums. 

In terms of covers, the standout tracks include a moody mid-tempo take on Jethro Tull's "Love Story" and "Crazy Horses," which utilizes Harvey's larynx-shredding wail to bring out the apocalyptic overtones in this surprisingly hard-rocking Osmonds tune.The band also takes some surprisingly effective stabs at country rock with their boozy sing-along cover of "Gamblin' Bar Room Blues" and "Say You're Mine (Every Cowboy Song)," a Harvey original.
by Donald A. Guarisco

Disc 1 Live 1975
1. Fanfare (Justly, Skillfully, Magnanimously) (D. Wadsworth) - 1:24
2. Faith Healer (A. Harvey, H. McKenna) - 6:50
3. Tomahawk Kid (A. Harvey, H. McKenna, D. Batchelor) - 5:50
4. Vambo (A. Harvey, H. McKenna) - 9:29
5. Give My Compliments To The Chef (A. Harvey, H. McKenna) - 6:37
6. Delilah (Les Reed, Barry Mason) - 5:17
7. Framed (Jerry Leiber, Mike Stoller) - 11:08

Disc 2 The Penthouse Tapes 1976
1. I Wanna Have You Back (S.A.H.B.) - 2:39
2. Jungle Jenny (S.A.H.B., D. Batchelor) - 3:59
3. Runaway (Del Shannon, Max Crook) - 2:44
4. Love Story (Ian Anderson) - 5:03
5. School's Out (Alice Cooper) - 4:55
6. Goodnight Irene (Lead Belly) - 4:32
7. Say You're Mine (Every Cowboy Song) - 3:21
8. Gamblin' Bar Room Blues (Jimmie Rodgers, Shelly Lee Alley) - 4:06
9. Crazy Horses (Alan Osmond, Wayne Osmond, Merrill Osmond) - 2:50
10.Cheek To Cheek (Irving Berlin) - 3:32

The Sensational Alex Harvey Band
*Alex Harvey - Lead Vocals
*Zal Cleminson - Guitars
*Chris Glen - Bass Guitar
*Hugh McKenna - Keyboards, Synthesizer
*Ted McKenna - Drums, Percussion
*B.J. Cole - Pedal Steel Guitar

The Senstational Alex Harvey Band
1972-73  Framed / Next 
1974-75  The Impossible Dream / Tomorrow Belongs to Me  
Related Act
1970  Tear Gas - Piggy Go Getter (Vinyl edition)
1971  Tear Gas - Tear Gas
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