To many, Graham Bonnet will always be associated primarily with Rainbow and then with MSG, but it must also be remembered he had his first hit single with The Marbles in 1968. In 1983, he co-founded Alcatrazz, with Gary Shea (bass), and Jimmy Waldo (keyboards) of the band New England, former Alice Cooper drummer Jan Uvena, and Swedish guitarist Yngwie Malmsteen.
Just a quick side note, New England’s debut album is still one of my very favorite of the melodic AOR genre, and if you have never heard it then you need to seek it out. Needless to say, there were line-up changes, bitterness and fights over the years, and at one point there were even two versions of the band in existence, and long periods when everyone was moving in different directions, but Graham, Jimmy and Gary Shea, reunited after 33 years for a unique series of shows in Osaka, Nagoya, and Tokyo, Japan on March 2017. For the special occasion, the band was rounded out by Mark Benquechea (drums) and Conrado Pesinato (guitars), both from the Graham Bonnet Band. In addition to this recording and filming the event, Alcatrazz raided the archives and added some unreleased bonus tracks taken from the original sessions recorded in 1985, including one song, “Emotion” with a young Steve Vai on guitar. The first thing one notices is that Bonnet has lost absolutely none of his power or range, and this from a singer who was in his 70thyear when this recorded. Just listen to the way he hits and holds the notes on “God Blessed Video”. I must confess, hearing this inspired me to go back and look at the original video of this from 1985 and it still makes me smile – Steve Vai showing exactly what he was capable of – and all credit to Conrado Pesinato who doesn’t do a bad job at all. If this wasn’t enough for the fans, the 11 “live” numbers have been boosted by another seven studio demos and rehearsals. This is a real blast from the past, and if you enjoy Eighties melodic rock then this is essential.
7/10 Kev Rowland