The best of the Alarm collections
Tim Brough | Springfield, PA United States | 06/08/2006
(4 out of 5 stars)
"Like many of the post-punk bands to spring up in the wake of The Clash and U2, The Alarm pounded out revolutionary anthems that boiled over with angst and purposeful sounds. The sound, early on, was all acoustic, but the songs were roaring forces with big meaty choruses. They even refered to their works as recordings of "electric folklore." "68 Guns" and "The Stand" (inspired by the Stephen King book, no less), were undeniably catchy songs, and the bands' earnestness was infectious. Problem was, they were constantly walking in the shadow of U2 (try not to think of Bono and his gang when listening to "Strength"), and the comparisons were deserved. Like Bono and the boys, the best of the Alarm's work sounded out calls to arms with a questioning conscience. The albums were frequently uneven affairs, with Mike Peters' reach often exceeding his grasp. Even with that in mind, the members of The Alarm were great musicains. Drummer Twist, bassist and songwriter Eddie McDonald and guitarist Dave Sharp combined chops and energy to make The Alarm always come across as dramatic and passionate.
It's also why this collection punches harder that just about any Alarm album. With the exception of "Strength" and "Eye Of The Hurricane," most full length Alarm's efforts were madly uneven. But all these albums were worth holding on to for the extraordinary singles. The Alarm was defiantly into big statements; just listen to how many times words like hope, faith, strength and spirit pop up in the lyrics, and also note how many of these songs are about the confrontation of authority and agonizing over the potential conforming of their young lives.
The Alarm was also a killer live band. I saw them play a NYC gig on the "Change" tour, and they had a crowd lustily singing every song and pumping their fists in the air with abandon. Neil Young joined them onstage for an encore of "Rocking In The Free World" and everyone left that club soaked in feverish sweat. They were that convincing. "Standards," when blasting at full volume, will remind you about just how moving anthemic rock can be, and just how easily a great song can sweep you off to another plateau.
Recommended to fans of Big Country, Simple Minds, The Call and (naturally) U2."
The Alarm Has Never Sounded Better! 24-Bit Remastering!
Jason W. Bellenger | Byron Center, Michigan, USA | 09/26/2007
(5 out of 5 stars)
"I cannot believe that none of the reviews yet have commented on the audio upgrade here! I'm probably in the minority here, but if a collection has brilliant sound that stands above the rest, I'm more inclined to give it a favorable review even if the tracklisting has some flaws. Some fans are complaining about the use of edits here, but I'm actually happy to have them here since these are often the versions heard on the radio and included on the singles. If I want album versions, I listen to the albums. Keep in mind, as well, that this 2006 Capitol/EMI release clocks in at over 76 minutes of playing time with a total of 21 tracks. Perhaps another 3-minute track could have been squeezed in and yes, a number of singles are missing. Yet, how many compilations include such a generous tracklisting?
Prior to this collection I was quite unfamiliar with much of The Alarm's back catalogue. In fact, I only recognized a few songs here and there from the tracklisting -- that is, until I actually heard the songs. I discovered a number of gems that I had completely overlooked or had only heard a couple of times as a child. While I cannot comment on every track here and argue over tracks included versus those not included I can comment that the collection as a whole works very well, highlighting a number of the band's single and b-side material from 1983 - 2006.
The 24-bit remastering by Robert Vosgien @ Capitol Mastering Studios is the main reason I bought this release. It is brilliant! In fact, I wasn't going to buy this release until I saw Vosgien's name listed in the credits on an online site. The drums are loud, punchy, and crisp. The guitars and vocals are clean and soar. It's really a joy hearing these classics in this new sonic dimension, most of them for the very first time! Did I mention how wonderful "The Stand" sounds here? So much punch has been brought out of this classic single. The same holds true all across the board, with the most notable differences being the early tracks of course.
The surprise track here for me is the band's live rendition of Dylan's "Knocking On Heaven's Door", which is, in my opinion, the best cover of this classic single. Most surprising to me, however, is the remastering punch! I cannot believe how brilliant this sounds for a live recording pulled from 1985. I swear that the drums are as crisp as any live recording of today. Originally released as the b-side to 'Spirit of '76', this live cut is probably my favorite track on the disc and a fine example of an amazing live band, a band which sounds as good in concert as in the studio.