I cannot tell you how pleased I was to see this on the Press Release for October. If what follows is less a review and more a eulogy I make no apologies!
A few facts, Alcatrazz were formed in 1983, basically as a star vehicle for lead singer Graham Bonnet. The other members were Jimmy Waldo (keyboards), Gary Shea (bass) both ex New England, Jan Uvena (drums) ex Alice Cooper and Iron Butterfly (great credentials!) and the 20 year old prodigy that was/is Yngwie Malmsteen. Bonnet had of course had an illustrious career beginning with The Marbles in the 60’s through to the Michael Schenker Group, Rainbow and solo success with singles like ‘Night Games’ in 1981. Alcatrazz was Bonnets vision of his own Rainbow. I first heard the track ‘Jet to Jet’ whilst driving to a gig and was completely blown away. I immediately got hold of a copy of NPFR&R and fell in love with the band. Since that time I have NEVER done a radio show without including at least one Alcatrazz track (usually 2!).
However, mention Alcatrazz to most people in the UK and you get a blank stare. If you were in Japan you would find Alcatrazz mentioned in the same breath as Zeppelin, Purple, Rainbow, Maiden etc they were and still are huge there. In the US MTV played ‘Island In The Sun’ and ‘Hiroshima Mon Amour’ (both from NPFR&R) on heavy rotation.
So to the album, 10 tracks of intelligent, melodic and perfectly realised hard rock/metal/shred cuts that never overstay their welcome. Kicking off with chugging mid tempo ‘Island in the Sun’ and the first taste of Yngwie’s licks playing to Grahams searing vocals morphing into the heavier vibe of track 2 ‘General Hospital’ then on to the (for me) apogee of ‘Jet to Jet’. As previously mentioned this was the first track I heard, and its Yngwie’s solo that blows you away. Now at this point I must, to be fair, address the views of other contemporary reviewers who, in my view, snidely wrote off Yngwie as a sub standard Ritchie Blackmore. Malmsteen never made any secret of his adoration of Blackmore. But a poor imitation? B@@@ocks! All musicians draw on influences and add their own twist. I would agree that Malmsteen, who left after this album to form his own Rising Force went on to make some overblown and bloated albums, I don’t need a 20 minute solo to be impressed! And there is the crux of what makes NPFR&R such a great album. Bonnet ‘contains’ Yngwie’s guitar parts to achieve a ‘less is more’ conclusion. The remaining 7 tracks all shine differently from the impassioned ‘Hiroshima Mon Amour’ to the good time feel of ‘Too Young To Die, Too Drunk To Live’. With this release you also get the added bonus of instrumental versions of all 10 tracks showing how they came together. Ive made no secret in these words of my admiration for this band and if one person reading this gets into Alcatrazz i’ll be personally delighted. But as ever I welcome your feedback, positive or negative. For me like the prison the band are named after its a life sentence im happy to serve!
For more information go to http://www.cherryred.co.uk
Until next time, take care…..Colin
Sarah Harvey… Going to play Alcatrazz on a future show…… what do you think is their best track? Also from ‘Disturbing The Peace’ and ‘Dangerous Games’.
Pete Prescott… I wrote two songs on Forcefield 3 that Graham Bonnet sang on with Ray Fenwick (hold on and hit and run). He has one of those voices that’s easily recognisable.