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Tuesday, December 1, 2009

The Sensational Alex Harvey Band: Hot City


1) Vambo; 2) Man In The Jar; 3) Hey You; 4) Long Haired Music; 5) Sergeant Fury; 6) Tomahawk Kid; 7) Ace In The Hole; 8) Weights Made Of Lead; 9) Last Train.

The latest Harvey-related release "from the vaults" is only recommendable to serious fans with solid Scottish heritage. Hot City is the title of a shelved album that SAHB attempted to record in early 1974 — however, disappointed with the results, they abandoned the sessions and came back later in the year to re-record most of the tracks as The Impossible Dream. So, essentially, what you get is just an earlier version of that record, minus 'River Of Love' and 'The Impossible Dre­am' itself, plus just one previously unknown track — the vaudeville number 'Ace In The Hole'.

It is all quite perfectly listenable and enjoyable: these are not demo tapes, but full-fledged, expert­ly produced recordings (on part of the sessions, they worked with veteran Kinks and Who produ­cer Shel Talmy). Whether, however, they are better in any way than The Impossible Dream is debatable: obviously, Harvey did not think so, and me, I am somewhat reluctant to waste time over any sort of detailed comparison. Based on a few rag-taggy observations (for instance, the relative shortness of 'Man In The Jar'), I'd say Hot City is somewhat less theatrical than what it eventually became (this might have been the ultimate reason for Harvey not getting along with straightforward rock'n'roller Talmy). But that's really rag-taggy.

Also, 'Anthem' (here still bearing the original title 'Last Train') is much longer here, with the 'an­themic' part of it fully played twice, first as an intro and then as an outro. I agree with the band that it does not work; the "preview" of the majestic Scottish melody in the beginning sort of acts like a silly spoiler, and they were wise to remove it in the final version.

Bottomline: if The Impossible Dream figures on your list of 100 Greatest Albums Of All Time, Hot City is a must. At best, you will have the opportunity to enjoy your favourite record the way it has never been heard before, and at worst, you'll get some useful insights into its origins. But something tells me I am not addressing a heck of a lot of people in this paragraph.

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