Harem Scarem – Live at The Phoenix
Frontiers Music Srl (2015)
Reviewer – Aaron Chatfield
So, Harem Scarem. Let’s start off with a confession… I’m just not that much of a fan. With the exception of the sublime Mood Swings, I’ve found the band very hit and miss. Some great tracks on each album, but no great album. I know that I am in the minority… oh and I don’t like live albums!
This means ‘Live at The Phoenix’ has a hell of a lot of work to do to impress me.
The package is a two disk CD and 1 disk DVD, but I’m only covering the audio disks on this review. Recorded in their home town of Toronto, the opus covers tracks from across their career, including some of the tracks I recognise from the aforementioned Mood Swings release.
After a brief introduction the first disk kicks off with ‘Garden of Eden’. For a live album, the sound is good. Clear instruments with good separation and vocals high in the mix. You can’t fault the band musically, they are all have serious chops, but the song just is just OK to me. On it’s tails is ‘Hard to Love’, which is one of my favourite tracks by the band and they deliver it well on this live version. ‘Saviours’ is another track that I like from the band, so glad to see this so early in the set. ‘Dagger’ follows, which doesn’t catch me and then we slow the tempo down for power ballad ‘Distant Memory’, a good enough ballad.
The rest of disk 1 features ‘The Midnight Hours’, ‘Mandy’, ‘Killing Me’, ‘Slowly Slipping Away’ and ‘Troubled Times’.
The second half of this release opens with ‘Sentimental Blvd’, another track I recognise instantly, the vocals really lift this version, with some real passion. Unfortunately, ‘Turn Around’ follows, which is not my cup of tea at all. It’s one of those ‘modern rock’ tracks, with a little bit of a Beatles feel in the melodies. I’m glad when we get back to another Mood Swings track with ‘Stranger Than Love’.
‘All I Need’, ‘Saints & Sinners’ & ‘So Blind’ all follow, but by now I am really focused on getting to Harem’s best track, the superb ‘Change Comes Around’. I played this track to death when it first came out and it’s not lost anything over the years, although I would choose the studio version over this live version every time. The live version just doesn’t have the same energy and some of the melodies aren’t quite right.
The album closes up with ‘No Justice’.
All in all, this live album hasn’t suddenly made me a huge Harem Scarem fan and they will remain in the OK pile for me. It’s also not changed my mind over live albums. Whilst I like live music, it rarely transfers to CD well and I’d much rather listen to the studio versions.
If you are a big fan of Harem Scarem and enjoy live albums, then I think this will be a good release for you. Good set list and sonics, mean that if you want to relive that live experience, you can do it without the £5 beer, urine-soaked toilet floor and aching feet!