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The Alarm: Strength 2015

Being a "heavy metal kid" as I was growing up, The Alarm were a band merely in the peripheral vision of my music focus. The sort of band that I was aware were pretty decent and that I wouldn't complain if someone whacked on at a party, but not one I'd invested my time or money in. Hence it's not too surprising that the first time I sat down to listen to Strength, the band's widely accepted "strongest moment", it's actually a 30th anniversary Mike Peters (singer and guitarist) re-recorded version which varies significantly from the original. More a new wave-based, but rock infused and pop capable outfit way back when, The Alarm at the time maintained their chart success in the UK through both "Spirit of '76" and this album's title track, but to many fans, the album they came from is the band's finest. So is Mike Peters wise to continue his reworking programme, which begun with Declaration, where he rearranges, in some cases updates the lyrics and then presents the results in acoustic (although still full band) fashion?

Well on the strength of Strength 2015, I'd say pretty much so, for while purists may judder at the thought, what Peters has, aided by The Alarm members Smiley on drums and Mark Taylor on keyboards (and an extended cast of others) achieved, is to meld tracks like "Dawn Chorus" into string infused singer songwriter fare, while "Deeside" on the other hand finds Peters sounding like a stripped back Springsteen. "Strength" itself now kicks off with a striking resemblance to Neil Young's "Needle And The Damage Done" before evolving into almost acoustic U2, whereas "Knife Edge" is probably the track with strongest links to the more raucous past, its Keith Moon drum clatter intro a real surge of energy.

Long term fans may be further thrown off that the track listing doesn't follow that of the original release, or the 2000 reissue (which itself re-jigged the running order), although that does allow the new track, "Last Train" to be seamlessly integrated into the album rather than tacked on the end. And with it being a deep, meaningful piece from the same era as the original album it doesn't feel at all out of place.

I wasn't sure what to make of this album, or indeed the idea behind it when I first received this nicely packaged gatefold CD with all new art, and yet executive producer Jimmy Iovine (Tom Petty and so on he was slated to be involved by the original but those plans were scuppered) ensures the Peters, Mark Warden, Smiley production sounds magnificent. Peters is in fine voice and the eye for detail displayed across the album also dismisses any fears of cash in, or meddling for meddlings sake. Fans may take a while to adjust, but I doubt they'll be disappointed and as a casual observer I have to say I was more than pleasantly surprised.

Track Listing
1. Spirit Of '76
2. Deeside
3. Knife Edge
4. The Day The Ravens Left The Tower
5. Walk Forever By Your Side
6. Strength
7. Dawn Chorus
8. Father To Son
9. Only The Thunder
10. Last Train
11. Absolute Reality

Added: September 13th 2015
Reviewer: Steven Reid
Related Link: The Alarm online
Hits: 1554
Language: english

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