A handy two-fer coupling of the Sensational Alex Harvey Band's first two albums, nicely remastered but sadly accompanied by nothing that has not been reissued before, Framed/Next captures the band as they took their first steps towards a superstardom that was by no means taken for granted. Early live audiences hated the group, and the only consolation for Harvey was that he actively enjoyed the confrontation.
Framed was recorded in under five days, and still steams with the seething fury of its birth, a mixed bag of new creations, odd concoctions, and oldies that Harvey had been playing for up to a decade. Both the title track and "I Just Want To Make Love To You" were reprised from his Alex Harvey Soul Band debut album; "Hole In Her Stocking" had already appeared on his last LP, as a member of the Rock Workshop troupe; and "Midnight Moses" revisited a lost 1969 single. Elsewhere, however, the epic "Isabel Goudie" showcased his backing band with a lengthy recounting of a Scottish witch legend, while the decidedly unseasonal Yuletide single "There's No Lights On The Christmas Tree" told the tale of a gangster going to the electric chair. And "The Hammer Song" found an entire new generation of fans after Nick Cave covered it on 1990s The Good Son. At the time, though, they couldn't give this stuff away.
Fast forward a year and the band's fortunes had changed dramatically. Now regarded as one of the top live acts in the country, the criticism was that their vinyl didn't reflect their live performances. Next, dynamically produced by Phil Wainman (later better-known for his work with the Bay City Rollers), would change that forever.
Once again, the title song was a cover, a dramatic version of Jacques Brel's "Au Suivant" transformed into an apocalyptic tango. More important within Harvey's own subsequent iconography, however, was the pulsing "Faith Healer," a magnificent invocation that was soon to become the band's traditional set-opener (replacing a manic version of the Osmonds' "Crazy Horses") and has since, of course, ascended to the status of Rock Anthem.
The seethingly sexual "Swampsnake" and the lascivious "Gang Bang" cater delightedly to the band's reputation for taking no prisoners, but a rambunctious version of Freddie Bell's 1956 classic "Giddy Up A Ding Dong" gives ample vent to their lighter side, before Harvey unleashes the semi-autobiographical "Last Of The Teenage Idols," a song recounting his long ago triumph in a Scottish Tommy Steele competition. It's a great conclusion to the album, and a fitting finale, too, to this release's roundup of SAHB's first full year in action. ~ Dave Thompson