Newt's Coronavinyl Countdown is a daily blog wherein veteran Georgia Straight rock writer Steve Newton works through his LP collection--alphabetized according to band name, from AC/DC to ZZ Top--hoping to connect with fellow music-lovers who are also social distancing during COVID-19. Today's selection is the Alarm's Strength.
As you can tell by the round hole punched in the bottom left side of my copy of the Alarm's Strength, it was provided free by distributor MCA Records Canada. Yes, back in the '80s, free albums were a main motivator for becoming a rock critic.
And free concerts.
It wasn't the big freelance bucks alone.
I do recall being particularly thrilled to score a gratis copy of Strength, the 1985 followup to the previous year's breakthrough Declaration album. Both albums were on I.R.S. Records, a label cofounded by Police manager Miles Copeland III that produced such '80s acts as R.E.M., the Go-Go's, Wall of Voodoo, Concrete Blonde, Lords of the New Church, and Fine Young Cannibals.
I remember being blown away by Strength's exhilirating title track, as well as "Spirit of '76" and "Absolute Reality", which was turned into a "Get Back"-style rooftop-shot video:
Perhaps the best way to show exactly how I felt about the Alarm back in the day is to post something I wrote about them at the time. Here's my review of them live in Vancouver, as published in the Georgia Straight on March 18, 1988:
One of my favourite albums of 1985 was Strength by the Alarm. It was a totally inspiring bit of guitar-driven rock that blended the bristling anger of the Clash with the soulful humanity of U2. I predicted back then that these guys would be real big someday, and since it hasn’t happened yet, I’m still predicting it. As their show at the 86 Street Music Hall last week (March 9) proved, they certainly have what it takes.
A healthy crowd of 900 packed the Expo nightclub, many of whom have only recently come to know the band through its latest single, “Rain in the Summertime”. To update that portion of the audience, the Welsh quartet tossed off rowdy versions of their first North American hit, “68 Guns”, and “Blaze of Glory”–another track from their 1984 Declaration LP.
Looking like an emaciated Robin Trower, guitarist Dave Sharp handled the quick switches from rhythm to lead with grace aplenty, while lead singer Mike Peters’ rough-hewn vocals and declaratory stage presence kept most of the crowd’s eye on him. Bassist Eddie Macdonald and drummer Twist did their own thing admirably, laying down the rhythmic backdrop to the band’s exhilarating noise.
Having seen the band open for Pat Benatar at the Pacific Coliseum in the spring of ’86, I had the impression they’d be great in a more intimate setting, and I wasn’t wrong. The latest news is that they’ve been chosen as the opening act on Bob Dylan’s next tour, so my three-year-old prediction of the Alarm’s rise to rock prominence might still prove legitimate. Here’s hoping.
Tune in to Newt's Coronavinyl Countdown tomorrow when the band next in line in my alphabetized vinyl stacks is Angel and their album Helluva Band.
Anybody remember Angel?