Universal Music pay tribute to the short but prolific musical life of enigmatic Glasgow blues-rockerAlex Harvey with the biggest-ever, career-spanning, cross-label collection of his work.
The Last Of The Teenage Idols is presented as a 10 x 10-inch box set with a heavy-duty slipcase.Fourteen CDs are complemented by a 60-page hardcover book featuring a new essay on Alex Harvey by Scottish scribe Tim Barr, many previously unseen personal photos, documents (such as Harvey’s appeal to be exempted from National Service on the grounds that he was a conscientious objector) and newspaper cutting supplied by his family. A total of 217 fully remastered tracks (with much of the material from the original master tapes) includes 21 that are previously unreleased, and a further 59 that are appearing officially on CD for the first time.
The music fest kicks off with the eponymous debut album of Alex Harvey And His Soul Band for the first time on CD. There are five bonus tracks on this disc – three previously unreleased songs from May 1964, plus two songs from Everything’s Alright With Iabella Bond, the live Decca album recorded at Hamburg’s Top Ten Club that same year.
Disc two delivers the first release 2nd Album, that, to Harvey’s displeasure, Polydor refused to release back in 1964. Three previously unreleased tracks from the same period are also included. The story goes that the acoustic solo long-player, The Blues, that followed, which featured Alex’s brother Les accompanying him on guitar, was something of a retaliatory strike against Polydor made mainly to fulfil his Polydor contract as quickly as possible. It sold few copies, but actually contains some delightful tracks and the original vinyl has latterly become a sought-after and expensive collectors’ item for Harvey devotees. The CD of this ‘lost album’ is bolstered here by two bonus tracks – the A- and B-side of his first single for the Fontana: a cover of Northern Soul classic Agent Double-O-Souland his Harvey’s own Go Away Baby.
The fourth disc showcases Harvey’s second album Roman Wall Blues (1969), plus Fontana and Decca singles and a rare early demo of Harp which would later become a favourite of The Sensational Alex Harvey Band (or SAHB for short).
After sampling the varied flavours of Hair Rave Up (an offshoot from Harvey’s job as a member of the pit band on London musical Hair), Rock Workshop (Harvey’s work with the 13-piece band he formed with Ray Russell in 1970) and his 1972 solo album The Joker Is Wild on disc five, the SAHB years are covered on discs six to thirteen.
The Sensationals’ 1973 debut long-player Framed is supplemented by a final version of the aforementioned Harp and five Radio 1 In Concert live recordings from November 1971.
Each of the subsequent discs featuring SAHB albums are augmented with bonus live recordings, notably of their British Top 40 hits, Delilah on Old Grey Whistle Test in 1975 (disc ten) and Boston Tea Party on Top Of The Pops in 1976 (disc 12), introduced by none other than poptabulous DJ Noel ‘Tidy-Beard-Multicoloured-Swap-Shop-House-Party-Deal-Or-No-Deal’ Edmonds
Also look out for a rare 24-minute spoken word piece from Alex, from the extravagantly named promo-only album Alex Harvey Talks About Everything: An In Depth Session With Alex Harvey Of The Sensational Alex Harvey Band.
Disc thirteen features Rock Drill (1977), SAHB’s last album, and is expanded to include two extra tracks by the band, including rarity No Complaints Department, which was omitted from the original album at the last minute. To segue into Harvey’s post-SAHB career, three songs with his next band Quad, performed for Alan ‘Fluff’ Freeman’s Radio 1 Show in March 1978.
This comprehensive collection is completed with selected tracks from Harvey’s three post-SAHB albums, plus a sprinkling of non-album tracks ending with previously unreleased home demo of Billy Bolero.
Alex Harvey died in February 1982, after suffering two heart attacks on his way back from a gig in Belgium. He was just a day short of his 47th birthday, but as this extensive and lovingly packaged collection attests, his had been a richly productive musical life.
The Last of the Teenage Idols is released on 18 March.
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