SMART SOUNDS by Colin Bell reviewing Alcatrazz Disturbing The Peace deluxe edition and Dangerous Games expanded edition cd’s

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DISTURBING THE PEACE (2 DISC DELUXE EDITION CD/DVD) Alcatrazz
Having previously brought you the albums ‘No Parole From Rock & Roll’ and ‘Live Sentance’. The re-issue campaign concludes with ‘Disturbing The Peace’ and ‘Dangerous Games’. As I have already mentioned Alcatrazz are my all time favourite metal band of the 80’s. So, After the incendiary debut of NPFR&R the second studio album appeared in 1984. Major changes had occurred, changes of management, record labels and crucially the departure (sacking) of enfant terrible Yngwie Malmsteen. In came on guitar the inspired choice of Steve Vai (ex Frank Zappa) and later to grace David Lee Roth and Whitesnake. And as Graham Bonnet himself opined now they were a band not a showcase for vocals and flashy guitar shreds. I think i’d agree in part, Vai plays WITH the band and the result is more cohesive and the results can be heard.
Kicking off with ‘God Blessed Video’ (a track I have opened so many rock radio shows with!) it sets the tone, melodic metal that grabs you by the throat with Bonnets unique vocal, Vai’s guitar and some great drum work from Jan Uvena. Its MTV friendly (well it was the 80’s!) and indeed enjoyed heavy rotation. ‘The Stripper’ and ‘Painted Lover’ are two more throat grabbers, buts its not all breakneck pace ‘Will You Be Home Tonight’ and ‘Desert Diamond’ show off Graham’s broad vocal range and not just the ‘scream style’ he often gets saddled with. DTP has been released before but never in a package as good as this, the audio disc has Bonus tracks and instrumental demo’s, not entirely essential but nonetheless great to have. And what is really great to have is the 2nd DVD disc featuring the band in concert in Tokyo (where they were and still are huge) in 1984. The concert features tracks from both NPFR&R and DTP, ‘Night Games’ and ‘All Night Long’ from Grahams other incarnations. After years of shoddy bootleg footage this is a huge bonus. All in all a lavish package that at last does Alcatrazz justice.

DANGEROUS GAMES (EXPANDED EDITION) Alcatrazz
And so to the third (and last) studio album released in 1986. The revolving door has revolved yet again and Steve Vai has departed (with an offer he couldn’t refuse) to hook up with David Lee Roth. Ok Alcatrazz was always built around Bonnet its just a pity Vai couldn’t remain and cement the work on DTP. However it wasn’t to be so in came Danny Johnson (ex Rick Derringer, Alice Cooper and Rod Stewart). Whilst his playing is by no means bad following Malmsteen and Vai is pretty daunting! The bands record label (Capitol) wanted them to move in a more ‘commercial’ direction. Wrong! Ah well just my opinion. DG has its highlights kicking off with a cover of The Animals ‘Its My Life’ (co-incidentally my favourite Animals track) its a ballsy start, but even for this self confessed die hard fan its all a bit lacklustre compared to the two previous albums. ‘Ohayo Tokyo’ and title track ‘Dangerous Games’come over well but it all seems too little too late. The inclusion of Grahams (Marbles hit) ‘Only One Woman’ reeks of the record company pedestrian thinking..well it was a hit before…and although Bonnet shows he can still hit the notes it doesn’t better the original in my book. On the plus side this release does include some ‘live’ bonus tracks which is cool and welcome and again makes this the most complete release of DG.
So there we have it the completion of the back catalogue of Alcatrazz and notwithstanding the rather (to me) disappointing end that was DG, they were and remain my favourite metal band despite the often confusing path trodden! If you buy one album NPFR&R would be top of my list. And in conclusion kudos to HNE (Hear No Evil Recordings) for doing such a fine job.

For more information go to http://www.cherryred.co.uk

I’ll see you soon with a career spanning compilation of Unit 4 + 2 and a 3CD compilation of 70’s psyche/heavy rock, featuring a certain well known local band!??…..answers/guesses on a postcard….. Til then, Colincolin-head-111x150-111x150

SMART SOUNDS by Colin Bell. Reviewing Alcatrazz Live Sentence cd/dvd deluxe edition and John Miles – Miles High cd.

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‘LIVE SENTENCE’ Alcatrazz (Deluxe Edition CD/DVD) HNE Records

As regular readers of S.S. will know this is my all time favourite metal band of the 80’s. A coupla months back I brought you their debut album ‘No Parole From Rock and Roll’. As mentioned in that review Alcatrazz were a HUGE success in Japan especially. To capitalise on the albums success they took to the road to promote it and Live Sentence is the result. Recorded in January 1984 in Tokyo the set list includes most of the tracks recorded for NPFR&R, minus annoyingly ‘Jet to Jet’, a personal favourite! However that’s a small niggle. Along with ‘Island in the Sun’, ‘Hiroshima Mon Amour’ ‘General Hospital’, all classics in my view Graham Bonnet treats us to his solo success with ‘Night Games’ and re-visits his sojourn with Rainbow to deliver ‘Since You’ve Been Gone’ and ‘All Night Long’ to the evident delight of the audience.
This release comes as 2 discs, disc one audio and disc two a DVD. At last I can dispense with my er bootleg footage! The audio and video quality of the DVD is surprisingly good for its age and stands up well. Like me you can now marvel at the 20 year old prodigy Yngwie Malmsteen in all his glory. And a glorious thing to watch it is! His neo-classical shredding is jaw dropping!
Not since I first saw Hendrix have I ever been so transfixed by a guitarist.
‘Kree Nakoorie/Coming Bach’ is mesmerising, yes he’s over indulgent at times compared to the studio recordings, but hell’s teeth he’s simply amazing even when he’s being arrogantly OTT! He knows he’s a ‘Rising Force’ and I forgive him, if I had his talent I doubt i’d hide my light under a bushel.
To cap it all off there’s three bonus tracks recorded at the Rock Palace in the USA including ‘Too Young To Die-Too Drunk To Live’. They don’t write them like that anymore, more’s the pity! For all Graham Bonnet/Malmsteen fans this is an essential addition to your library. PLAY IT LOUD!

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‘MILES HIGH’ John Miles  (Lemon Recordings)

This is the first time on CD for what was John’s fifth studio album released originally in 1981, at that time it only reached a rather disappointing 96 chart position. Two singles were released from the album in the shape of ‘Turn Yourself Loose’ and ‘Reggae Man’. John is undoubtedly a fine musician, singer and guitarist and indeed a writer having composed the 10 tracks here. There is nothing intrinsically wrong with the album, for me however nothing really leaps out at you. Its a polished affair and plays like a soundtrack to an American series of the Eighties (Miami Vice springs to mind) its slick AOR and maybe therin lies the problem for these ears its all a little too bland for my taste. John is without doubt a musicians musician and has contributed his skills to the likes of Joe Cocker, Tina Turner and the great Alan Parson’s project. Overall one for completists of his canon of work methinks, or fans of the Eighties slick pop genre.

For more information go to http://ww.cherryred.co.uk                 colin-head-111x150

Til next time….     Colin

SMART SOUNDS by Colin Bell. Reviewing No Parole From Rock ‘N’ Roll (Expanded Edition) by Alcatrazz

ALCATRAZZ no parole

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                   colin-head-111x150

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.