The Alarm ” King Biscuit Flower Hour” Review (5 stars)

1999 King Biscuit Records

There has always been a huge gap in album catalog from the Welsh band The Alarm: a scorching live album. Sure, the band recorded two of the best rock albums of the 80’s (1984’s “Declaration”, and 1985’s “Strength”), but hearing The Alarm “in-the-studio” was only half the story. In it’s time The Alarm’s live performances were nothing short of legendary.

They didn’t merely “take-the-stage” but more accurately “held it hostage”, blasting their unique mix of
acoustic guitars, stomping rhythms, and fiery vocals to a frantic and amazed audience left gasping for breathe and screaming for more. The band released an the E.P. in 1988 called “Electric Folklore: Live”, but that 6 song
disappointment did more to show how The Alarm’s troubles as a unit in the late 80’s than display their sheer magnificence as a live band.

Now, in 1999, 8 years after then band broke up, King Biscuit Flower Hour has released a live album that should
fill the live-album gap, and at the same time, finally secure The Alarm as one of the 80’s most underrated

Recorded in late 1983 at The Paradise Theatre, Boston MA, “King Biscuit: The Alarm” is a marvelous testament to The Alarm as a band who were song-writers and performers at heart, as well talented musicians. The album begins with an outstanding version of “For Freedom” from The Alarm E.P. and doesn’t let up
until the bands strums the final chords of the beautiful “We Are The Light” from the “Declaration” album.

King Biscuit included the full-set, nothing has been edited or deleted. Only a couple of the band’s well-known hits
were written in 1983 (“Sixty Eight Guns”, “The Stand”), so the set is filled with sparkling performances of songs
that were buried on albums, or very early singles. This is a great advantage, because it proves that The Alarm were not only a very unique band with many varied influences, but also were more than the anthem-spouting rabble-rousers the music press dismissed them as in the 80’s.

Diversity is really the key to the success of this album. Not only are the songs multi-faceted, but so are the musicians. Mike Peters sings lead vocals on nine of the fourteen tracks, but guitarist Dave Sharp takes the lead with four
stunning performances (including brilliant versions of “Tell Me” and “Across The Border”), and even bassist Eddie MacDonald belts out his “unknown soldier” epic, “Third Light”. The two best tracks are the emotional sizzler “Blaze Of Glory”, and the storming rocker “Unsafe Building”,
the first song The Alarm ever recorded.

The only fault I can find with the album is that the well-known songs sound rather tepid compared their recorded counterparts. Even this is understandable however, as these are merely early versions of songs that would one-day become classics. Also, because the album includes the full set from the show in contains two versions of “Marching On”. It seems odd, but since the song is amazing, it takes nothing away from the
the performance.

After the show concludes, the listener in treated to very good, recent interview with Alarm front-man Mike Peters. The 10 minute segment includes some hilarious and interesting insight from Mike Peters photographic memory of Alarm history.

As live show, this CD is highly entertaining. As a historic document, it provides amazing insight into one of the
80’s best bands. As an album it is thoroughly enjoyable and gets my highest recommendation.

Leave a Reply