THE SENSATIONAL ALEX HARVEY BAND - British Tour '76 (2004) & Live at the BBC 
The Sensational Alex Harvey Band was one of the most unconventional bands that were part of the 1970s glam rock era. Fronted by Alex Harvey accompanied by Zal Cleminson on guitar, bassist Chris Glen, keyboard player Hugh McKenna and drummer Ted McKenna, their music veered from glam rock to experimental jazz, around a core of experimental and avant-garde rock, dealing with themes from environmentalism to chinese take away food. While they achieved a critically acclaimed status in the UK & Scotland, they strled to make a huge impact in the United States.
British Tour '76 is not an expanded version of the original Live album, despite the similarity in track listings, but a remarkable document of the band's next major tour, in support of the newly released SAHB Stories album. History relates that the group was on the way out now, and certainly its subsequent decline was precipitous. Here, however, Alex and the lads aren't simply firing on all cylinders -- they're enacting one of the finest shows any British stage had ever seen. Their seething reinvention of "Amos Moses," the bicentennial gift "Boston Tea Party," and the so-compulsive "Dance to Your Daddy" are the new album's contributions to the show; elsewhere, it's business as usual, as the SAHB dig back into their earliest fare for a mighty "Isabel Goudie" and the inevitable thunder of "Faith Healer"; "Tomahawk Kid," "Vambo," and the encore hit "Delilah" are all present and deliriously correct, but the highlight has to be "Framed," with Alex in full comic Hitler mode, and delivering a routine that you simply couldn't get away with today. That doesn't stop it from being hysterically funny, though, as well as serving as a potent reminder that good taste and great rock & roll have rarely been comfortable bedfellows.
Two discs of 1972-1977 BBC performances by the Sensational Alex Harvey Band with excellent sound are collected on this set, though it's not quite as lengthy as you might assume, adding up to about an hour and a half in all (with only about half an hour on the second disc). There aren't great surprises in store for those familiar with Harvey's BBC work during this, his commercial peak. As was also true of his records, his reputation as a truly sensational live visual performer isn't quite mirrored by this audio-only document. Too, the only song that doesn't appear on his studio releases of this time is a 1972 cover of "Dance to the Music," which might be energetic but certainly wouldn't give Sly & the Family Stone cause to worry. Disc one is entirely devoted to two performances at BBC's Paris Theatre, one in November 1972 and the other in October 1973, where they run through the bulk of the material from the SAHB's first couple albums. Some of his most celebrated songs, like "Framed" and "The Faith Healer," are naturally included, as well as his oddball cover of the early rock & roll hit "Giddy Up a Ding Dong," though Harvey's manic-tinged vocals are more impressive than the period hard rock backing. Side two actually features 1973-1975 performances from the BBC television shows The Old Grey Whistle Test and Top of the Pops rather than radio spots, and the two songs from a December 1973 OGWT appearance an anguished cover of Jacques Brel's infamous "Next" and a second version of "The Faith Healer" that utterly outclasses the one on the first disc from just two months earlier are the highlights of the collection, though this "The Faith Healer" is actually a live Harvey vocal fronting a pre-recorded backing track. His 1975 U.K. Top Ten hit "Delilah" (from a 1975 OGWT broadcast) is another highlight, but take note that the final and least essential two tracks, from a 1977 appearance on the same program, are the SAHB without Harvey.
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