(4 / 5)
Graham Bonnet is a singer for all seasons. From his days with The Marbles, two hits with Bee Gees’ songs (“One Woman” and “Warm Ride”), a healthy 1970s solo career before his greatest success, as front man for Ritchie Blackmore’s Rainbow.
He replaced the legendary Ronnie James Dio for Rainbow’s 1979 album “Down To Earth”, and the global smash singles “All Night Long” and “Since You Been Gone”. He had further solo success with “Night Games” and the “Line-Up” album in 1981, before joining ex UFO man The Michael Schenker Group for 1982’s “Assault Attack”.
He sang with Alacatrazz from 1983 until they split in 1987.The band starred Bonnet, Yngwie Malmsteen: Guitars (1983-1984), Steve Vai: Guitars (1984-1985), Danny Johnson: Guitar (1985-1986), Gary Shea: Bass, Jan Uvena: Drums and Jimmy Waldo: Keyboards. Bonnet came back with a new Alcatrazz line-up in 2006 until 2014.
On this superb new box set, HNE Recordings deliver three discs of Alcatrazz studio stuff, demos and rehearsals, a good chunk of which has not previously been released. It’s an essential addition to the collection for Bonnet fans and admirers of Malmsteen and Vai.
Perhaps of the most interest to fans of Alcatrazz, and especially guitar hero Yngwie Malmsteen, is the third disc of previously unreleased 1983 rehearsals and writing sessions, giving a unique insight into the composition and arrangements for the “No Parole…” record. A dozen cuts on this disc, 17 on disc one 21 tracks on disc two. A bumper total of 50 tracks across this triple CD set.
On the last disc; the previously unreleased rehearsals recordings captures two takes of “Incubus”, three takes of “Kree Nakoorie”, “I’m Not Down”, “Big Foot” takes 1 & 2, “Jet To Jet”, “Star Carr Lane”, “Too Young To Die, Too Drunk To Live” and “General Hospital”.
After his blazing success with Rainbow, Graham yearned to recapture those glory days by forming a new band with a similar melodic hard rock modus operandi. Alcatrazz was born with a formidable, but relatively young 20-year-old Swedish guitarist named Yngwie Malmsteen.
Bonnet and Malmsteen formed a strong song-writing partnership, with songs such as “Island In The Sun”,’ and “Hiroshima Mon Amour”, on the band’s debut offering, “No Parole From Rock ‘N’ Roll”. “Jet To Jet”, “Kree Nakoorie”, “Too Young To Die”, “Too Drunk To Live”, “Starcarr Lane” and “Suffer Me” also included.
They made the US chart, with promo videos aimed at MTV helping the cause. Japan was a big market for the band, where they became stars. They embarked on a Japanese tour in early 1984, and plans were hatched to record a number of dates for a Live in Japan LP.
But the performance at Tokyo’s Nakano Sun Plaza venue was judged good enough to use in its entirety, and no other concerts were considered for inclusion on the “Live Sentence” release. That record includes unique versions of “Night Games”, MSG’s “Desert Song”, and Rainbow’s”‘Since You Been Gone”, “All Night Long” and “Lost In Hollywood”.
The first disc here is completed with 1983 instrumental demos of “General Hospital”, “Incubus” and “Big Foot”, as well as a previously unreleased version of Russ Ballard’s “S.O.S.”, recorded during Yngwie Malmsteen’s audition for the band. When Yngwie left in 1984, to pursue a successful career as a solo artist fronting his own band Rising Force, Alcatrazz lost a key songwriter and a musician.
He became one of the most influential lead guitarists of the decade and beyond. Relatively unknown at the time, future David Lee Roth and Whitesnake guitarist Steve Vai replaced Malmsteen. Vai also went on to become a guitar superstar.
Signing to EMI’s US subsidiary Capitol Records, “Disturbing the Peace” was released in 1985, led by the single and MTV favourite “God Blessed Video”. Also included from the album are “Mercy”, “Will You Be Home Tonight”, “Wire And Wood”, “Desert Diamond”, “Painted Lover” and “Skyfire”.
Their third and final album, “Dangerous Games”, was perhaps somewhat under-rated and is represented here with a revisit to “It’s My Life”, plus the 12” remix of “Undercover”, on CD for the very first time. Disc Two is completed by six previously unreleased demo/rehearsals from 1985 for the “Dangerous Games” album, including “Set Me Free”, “Blue Boar” and “No Imagination”.
By Christopher Weston
(2 / 5) ‘OK Zone’
(3 / 5) ‘Decent Zone’
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