Released as a companion piece to the Declaration 2014 album release, Peace Train takes its cue from the ‘words without music’ that were included on the original Declaration sleeve art. ‘Peace Train’ takes hold of all the songs that helped shape the original Alarm era as defined by ‘Declaration’. According to Mike Peters, “All of the songs on ‘Peace Train could easily have been included on Declaration had circumstances been different.”
Highlights include a first ever studio recording of the legendary early Alarm song ‘Mister Jones’ (which was only ever performed once at the band’s second gig in St. Asaph, 1981). Other notable performances include a spoken word and drum rendition of the title track plus contemporary re-recordings of ‘Reason 41’, ‘Across The Border’ and ‘What Kind Of Hell’ plus versions of Woody Guthrie’s ‘This Train Is Bound For Glory’ and Rod Stewarts’s Maggie May, both of which, were songs performed during encores at Alarm shows throughout 1984.
The Peace Train track listing features 16 tracks including an additional version of Bells Of Rhymney added to the running order.’Sad Bells Of Rhymney’ was a late addition to the album following the passing of author Pete Seeger and features an updated lyric to compliment that by original Welsh composer Idris Davies.
The new lyric by Welsh poet Patrick Jones (Brother of Manic Street Preacher’s Nick Wire), was commissioned by the BBC to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the first recording by iconic protest singer Pete Seeger, live at New York’s Carnegie Hall in 1957. The origins of the song can be traced back to the 1926 General Strike, when budding poet Idris Davies, then a miner living in Rhymney in Wales, vowed to educate himself and leave behind the life of toil and grime.
‘Sad Bells Of Rhymney’ was first sung by Mike Peters back in 2007 at St. David’s Church in Rhymney and again on the first ever Snowdon Rocks with Patrick Jones reading the new version alongside Mike’s version of the original. It has never been performed since until this special recording for ‘Peace Train’.
Stripped down and set free of the original arrangements, the songs on ‘Peace Train’ have been able to move with the times and are as relevant to life today as they were when written in the early 1980’s. “I felt like I could make a special record by treating the songs as if they had been written now,” continues Peters. “It wasn’t an easy process and I very nearly turned back a few times along the way. I had to take a very disciplined approach that was governed by the first principle The Alarm ever had, and that was to make music with an acoustic guitar, drum, harmonica and voice”.
Since the arrival of the White Stripes, Black Keys, Mumford & Sons etc, the world has now become accustomed to bands without a bass which is also the sonic blueprint for this ‘new’ Alarm album. “In 1981-1982, no one, not least me, understood how to make the sound of a band work without a bass guitar in the centre of the stereo picture. Now, I was able to use the studio to create a record that is not only the sound of The Alarm’s original vision but also a sound that is totally in line with contemporary trends, proving that The Alarm’s music has, and can, stand the test of time.”
For those Alarm fans who have come to love the band through the Poppy Fields recordings (or more recently through the exposure afforded to the band in the aftermath of the ‘Vinyl’ movie), Peace Train presents an opportunity to embrace a part of the band’s history that was special to a first generation of fans who have and still support the group to this very day. “Of course, for some, it will represent a trip down memory lane, for others it will be a chance to celebrate something that has value and integrity, a music that has stayed with us through the walk of life we have all lived since we first came into contact with it either in the writing or the listening.”
‘Where are you coming to, where are you going from? The word was down on the tracks, down on the tracks’ – The Alarm – Peace Train 2014.
Peace Train running order is as follows:
Bound For Glory
Lie Of The Land
What Kind Of Hell
Bells Of Rhymney
Across The Border
Thoughts Of A Young Man [Part One]
Up For Murder
Sad Bells Of Rhymney