Sunday, August 16, 2009
A Missing Treasure Is Discovered
David Hockney did the cover for Alfalpha's first critically acclaimed album. "Middle Class", the band's second album, also on the EMI label was axed.
Unfortunately, when this harmonic country style rock album (recorded at the Workhouse studio alongside The Blockheads' "Do It Yourself" offering, engineered by the 'fabulous' Laurie Latham) was finished, it coincided with the onslaught of punk music.
According to the major record labels, the 'revolutionary' emergence of punk made talented authentic rock bands an obsolete dinasaur. As far as they were concerned, they were completely redundant. The Music Biz welcomed the fact that punk was made up of predominately working class musicians (a couple of exceptions that instantly spring to mind are The Pogues public school educated Shane MacGowan, and The Clash's Joe Strummer, who was famously a diplomat's son).
In the Mid '70's, Alfalpha was regarded as 'polite' rock, which explains why their second album was christened "Middle Class". And although this talented band who played country cross music with an edge; and provided the backing vocals on Marc Bolan's last album, they decided to disband after making their doomed second offering. Even though the band had a successful regular Thursday night slot at the Speakeasy Club, where the punters went wild on hearing the band's second album, the band still decided to break up.
When Jeff Dexter, the band's producer/manager informed me David Gilmour's studio manager had found the tapes, and he now had them, would I be interested in going to his house and listening to the aborted album? 'Is the Pope Catholic?' Of course I would.
Alfalpha's talented musicians on the first and second album comprised of 'boy genius' songwriter and musician Nick Laird-Clowes (six string accoustic guitar), Sam Harley (bass and accoustic guitar), his brother Andy Harley (accoustic guitar/lead vocals). They also discovered the writing skills of the then unknown Chris Rea (just down from Middlesborough ), who wrote the album's beautiful "Because of You" track.
At Jeff's house, I sat down and listened to "Middle Class" all the way through, and lurved this exquisitely produced happy album (stuffed with stirring harmonies), which although made in the mid Seventies has travelled and is totally relevant today. I hope Alfalpha's magnificent second album gets re-issued. It deserves to!