I suppose it is fitting that start here with “Raw” as my first “preview-review” of “The Alarm 2000” releases, because, frankly, it has always been my least favorite of The Alarm’s studio albums. To me, the original sounded disjointed, messy and rushed. This was a far-cry from the lush and cohesive “Change” from two years prior. I always felt that “Raw” was missing something. After listening to the “Alarm 2000” version, I know what it was: more good songs.
Basically, this version of “Raw” pulls together all the songs that were originally recorded for the album, before the “Standards” greatest-hits album got in the way. “The Road”, “Unsafe Building 1990”, “Up For Murder 1990”, and “Happy Xmas (war is over)” are all here in their full-glory. This may not sound like a huge addition, but when heard in context, they really changed my impression of the album.
“The Road” blasts off the collection in the proper manner. It is essentially the same as the version from “Standards”, except it contains a tighter vocal-track than the previously released version. This is a good thing, as Mike Peters’ vocals have been reigned in a bit, and sound more earthy and real. Next up, an extended version of “Rockin’ In The Free World”, that (as my brother pointed out) now contains the “good part” of the song. It includes.the final climax of Neil Young’s masterpiece , and it sounds fantastic. Next up is “Raw”, which sounds better here because it does not have the pressure of starting-off the album. After “Raw” a version of “The wind Blows Away My Words” with a tighter vocal-track, similar to the one in the new version of “The Road”. In this case, it does not make the song better or worse (it is still my personal favorite song from the album) but simply sounds great. “Unsafe building 1990” continues the trend of longer songs, with an uncut version that contains a proper ending. “Moments In Time” is essentially unchanged, but the next song is not. “Let The River Run It’s Course” contains a masterful, uncut ending that rally shows off Dave sharp’s guitar-prowess. This used to be one of my least favorite songs, but here it takes on new life. It is one of the better tracks on the album.
“Raw” continues with “God Save Somebody”, “Lead Me Through The Darkness”, “Hell Or Highwater”, and then quickly switches gears to include “Save Your Cryin'” (if only Mike Peters could have found a version of this like the 1986 demo, now THAT would have been something), “Wonderful World”, “Up for Murder 1990”, “Happy Xmas (war is over)”. All of these songs are essentially the same as “Raw”, and need no further comment.
However, the last song on the album comes as a complete surprise (unless you read the sleeve notes that is). “Walk Forever By My Side” is an acoustic take with Dave Sharp and Mike Peters playing dueling guitars. The acoustics are bright and colorful, the vocals as great as ever. If a single could be released from this entire 150-song set, this would be my choice. It shows The Alarm at their best. Simple, yet ultimately complex if you delve into it’s deeper meaning.
With all of its extras and surprises, “Raw” receives the “Most Improved” award from me. It is not the best in the collection, but it light-years beyond the version released in 1991. If this is the final album from “The Alarm”, at least it now shows they did not falter and drift away, but instead were making vital and exciting music until the day they broke-up.