Essentially, this record started out life as a CD version of “The Alarm” E.P., which has never been released. Instead, it has become something much more. This CD stands as an historical record, chronicling the sonic rise of a nearly anonymous Wales-based punk band into a chart-topping success story.
The album starts out, appropriately enough, with a-side and b-side from The Alarm’s first independent 1981 single Unsafe Building b/w Up for Murder. Both songs sound remarkably clean and crisp on CD, and set the stage for the material to follow. At this point, two songs in, the album takes a monumental turn. Instead of logically moving into “Marching On”, The Alarm’s second single from 1982, we get to hear 5 demos from 1982. Actually a mix of demos for EMI , miscellaneous demos, and sessions, these 5 songs capture The Alarm in their rawest form ever recorded. “Lie Of The Land” displays the Sharp “electro-acoustic” in all its glory, behind some alternate and very interesting lyrics. “Reason 41” follows, and it has to be the best version of this song ever recorded. Except for a slight off-key harmonica blast near the end, this song is perfect, and shows what a masterpiece this Sharp/Peters collaboration really was before it got left behind for other tracks. The album continues with “The Deceiver” a less-gothic, less abstract version than the one found on the “Declaration” album. Next up is a demo of “What Kind Of Hell”. Although the recording level is a bit low (this might be fixed in the final remastering), the song in this form rocks! Think of the version “Second Generation Vol 1”, as played by wild natives. It is really remarkable. The final song in this section is “68 Guns”, and early version that sparkles like a ball of raw, focused energy.
Next up are the single/E.P. versions of “Marching On”, “Across The Border” and “Lie Of The Land”. All sound great because we can finally hear them on CD. The album then moves from 1982 to 1983. And we get a trio of Mick Glossop produced songs. “The Stand”, which needs no introduction, “Blaze Of Glory”, and “Thoughts Of A Young Man”. “Blaze Of Glory” is a version recorded in 1983, which appeared on the b-side of the “Absolute Reality” 12-inch single in 1985. To many die-hard fans, this is ultimate version of the song. It is tight, explosiove impassioned and wonderful. Legend has it that this is one of The Alarm songs that Bono heard and helped shape the direction of U2 in the following years. Yes my friends, the album critics might have always called The Alarm a rip-off of U2, but maybe, just maybe, it was the other way around. Hmm. Not to get too sidetracked, but has anyone ever noticed just how-much “Joshua Tree” sounds inspired by The Alarm from this era? Harmonicas, acoustic guitars, cowboy hats, stuff that U2 rarely delved into prior, but The Alarm had been using since their inception. Hmm. Anyhow, I digress., but it is something to think about. The third song in the “salute to Mick Glossop” is “Thoughts Of A Young Man”, a song in the form of a letter with a cool, guitar-crunching ending.
The fourth section of this album plays like a mini Alarm concert from 1983. It begins with the live version of “For Freedom” from the E.P/The Stand 12”., still as good a stomping rocker as The Alarm ever produced. Next up is a new, never released live version of “The Deceiver”, which sounds a bit faster and more anthemic than any other released version. “Third Light” (live) , “Lie Of The Land”(live) (count ‘em, three version on one CD) “A Legal Matter” (live), and the rarer “Marching On” (live) follow, all gloriously vibrant, and raucous in a way only The Alarm could have performed them on stage.
The album finishes with the single version of “68 guns”, that adds a drum-count by Twist at the beginning. This song rounds out The Alarm’s output for 1983. While not a totally remarkable ending, it is fitting for this collection. What we have here is not just a repackaging of an E.P. with some bonus tracks, but instead, a remarkable rock n’ roll journey. One that takes the listener from Rhyl bedrooms, to record company basements, through sweaty live shows in downtown London and the New York, all the way to the top-10 singles charts in the UK. This is the prelude to greater things to come, the opening shot in a battle to win the hearts and minds of music fans around the world. This is an amazing document, and one that should not be missed under any circumstances.