SAHB Stories

The Sensational Alex Harvey Band

(Digital Download - Vertigo #)

Review by Dave Thompson

The sixth album for the Sensational Alex Harvey Band, released following a year-plus hiatus that nevertheless saw the release of two new LPs: the water-treading Live, and the odds 'n' oldies collection Penthouse Tapes. Both portrayed the band in a light that had only a little in common with the group's true strengths -- both, attended by major chart success and exposure, left the band uncertain quite how -- or even if -- they should proceed. SAHB Stories suffers accordingly.

At its greatest, it shines alongside the very best of the band's past. The closing "Dogs of War," though bombastically overwrought, nevertheless ranks alongside John Cale's similarly fear-lashed "Mercenaries" as one of the greatest-ever examinations of the soldier of fortune, while the twisted history of "Boston Tea Party" -- quite likely the only U.K. hit to mention George Washington's wooden teeth -- is set to a pounding tomahawk guitar riff, and an extraordinarily contagious chorus. A positively spellbinding interpretation of Jerry Reed's "Amos Moses," meanwhile, drops the listener headfirst into the Louisiana bayou, hunting alligators and police chiefs alike. Elsewhere, however, the sense of finality that gathered around the band's period live shows was echoed in the album's failure to ever get out of second gear. "Dance to Your Daddy" is catchy but a little too cute; "Sirocco" rumbles with pulsating Eastern promise, but never quite delivers, and so on. The end of the band was nigh, and Harvey himself acknowledged that when he quit the group just a few months later. He would return, of course, but the dead horse was beyond flogging by then.

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