Alex Harvey passed away in 1982 yet his unorthodox music and showmanship continues to live and breathe in the deep catalog of material that remains behind. Recorded one month prior to his death ?The Soldier On The Wall? represents the final piece of the puzzle that completes the jigsaw of the jester of rock.
To be frank with you my most memorable memory of Alex Harvey was the obvious one and that being his appearance on England?s ?Top Of The Pops?. It was 1975 and I was barely a teen and remembered this odd front man along with the white painted face of Zal Cleminson on bass covering the Tom Jones? hit ?Delilah?. It appeared that after 20 hard working years in the business Alex had finally hit the mark as courtesy of his group the Sensational Alex Harvey Band.
The success of ?Delilah? coincided with the Glam Rock era, which was what I was expecting when I proceed to further explore the music of Harvey and his gang. Of course, that was my mistake as the last thing you want to do is attempt to pigeonhole this wandering musical gypsy who refused to stick to one genre. This was both the success and failure of Alex Harvey. The success in that he was eclectic and reputable, and the failure that the mainstream audience such as myself did not have the patience for him.
So the SAHB?s proceeded to follow up their hit with several critically acclaimed albums. None better captured their stage persona than the ?Live? album also featuring many of their overlooked songs until the arrival of ?Delilah?. Unfortunately, at the time I rejected the offering and proceeded onto the darlings of the era Slade and T.Rex. Now later in life I am able to appreciate artistic expression and wanderings and here I am presented with the audacious task of reviewing his epitaph. Needless to say his meandering musical explorations continued to the final concluding moment of this outrageous Scottish singer Alex Harvey.
While the album opens with the era influenced ?Mitzi? with its heavy driven keyboards, it does not take long for Harvey to shift gears. ?Mitzi? is followed up with the reggae tinged ?Billy Bolero? accompanied with some fine Caribbean influenced keyboard work but this only the beginning of the curve balls.
Just when you think its safe to return to normalcy, Harvey does the complete opposite and makes matters even more radical with his maddening polka band driven composition ?Snowshoes Thompson?. Matters are still left interesting with the military driven drums on ?Roman Wall Blues? which includes an Egyptian influenced chorus chant. Surprisingly, the production here is very full and embodied. Though it presents a more direct approach from Harvey the song is no less inspiring.
Meanwhile, the breather comes courtesy of Harvey?s piano heavy ballad ?The Poet And I?. A terrific sing a long chorus along with some bagpipes are added to the mix making this song a great addition to share at your local pub house. With Harvey?s ranting and comical additions as the song fades, it is a terrific reminder of his unusual vocal delivery.
Harvey continues on a genre bender with the blues influenced ?Flowers Mr. Florist? that includes a 50?s doo-wop feel to it. Adjoin the straight ahead rock and rollers ?Nervous? and ?Carry The Water?, the album continues to express the legacy of an artist that utterly refuses to rank himself in one genre and simply wishes to express himself which ever way he pleases.
There are detailed liner notes that explain the exhaustive dedication and research on bringing this labor of love to its completion. It does not hurt to have the participation of Dave Ian Hill who was involved not only in the engineering and mastering of this project but also the very successful Lindisfarne ?Buried Treasures? series. Despite the lack of master tapes available, the production is crisp and by no means comes even close to a dodgy demo status. Truthfully, the music has more than stood the test of time that one has to wonder why this was not re-released a long time ago.
For all Alex Harvey fans this is an utter must for the collection. For those not so familiar with the man such as myself, this is compelling evidence to revisit the artist that on many occasions was misunderstood. This Scottish lad with all attitude and charisma marched to the beat of his own drum soldiering on in this fickle music business. He certainly left more than a mark on the musical landscape and this is his wonderful setting sun on his own empire.