GRAHAM BONNET BAND – Meanwhile, Back In The Garage

Something has happened with Graham Bonnet in later years. Ever since the successful tour with his Graham Bonnet Band and his much appreciated appearance on the Michael Schenker Fest in 2015, his creativity seems to have been flowing like never before. Since then he has released one album with his band Blackthorne (II – Don’t Kill The Thrill), one with a project called EZoo (Feeding The Beast), a solo album (The Book – a two CD set where one CD was rerecordings of old solo, Rainbow, MSG, Alcatrazz and Impellitteri songs), one live solo album (Live… Here Comes The Night) and one Michael Schenker Fest album (Resurrection). And now it’s time for a brand new record from Bonnet and his partners in crime (guitarists Joey Tafolla and Kurt James, bassist Beth-Ami Heavenstone, drummer Mark Benquechea and keyboardist Jimmy Waldo, who was in Alcatrazz with Bonnet). Not bad for a dude in his early 70’s. What’s more impressing is that the quality on his latest solo album was so high, not only song-wise but it also proved that Bonnet still holds a good set of pipes and the whole thing sounded very vital and fresh. That makes for fans’ expectations to rise, of course which could put anyone under a great pressure to deliver the goods once again.

The title track opens on a faster pace, a bit neo-classical with lots of scales in an Alcatrazz meets MSG way which means it’s a glistening Hard Rock track that brings back the first half of the 80’s in sound but also contains vibes of the 70’s when the Hammond shows up. The tune is a bit of a grower but when it sticks there’s no doubt that it is a great tune. “The Hotel” is upbeat, fat and bouncy, early 80’s style. Based on sharp melodies and hooks, this melodic hard-rocker isn’t a far cry from what he did with Rainbow and MSG. It’s a bona-fide Hard Rock tune that holds a killer chorus – great! First single “Livin’ In Suspicion” is more in-your-face in a mid paced way. Style-wise, this is melodic Hard Rock of the 80’s that holds a big live feel and an amazing refrain. That it has been chosen as the first single is hardly surprising. Very, very good.

Bonnet does not hold back his anger towards the political climate in the US right now in “Incest Outcest USA”. Bonnet himself is on fire here and musically I hear clear similarities to Assault Attack (1982) – melodic, hook-friendly Hard Rock with lots of memorable melodies and a very direct refrain. Great stuff. On a heavier note, “Long Island Tea” tags along in a late 70’s Hard Rock style where his Rainbow roots shows up and Deep Purple aren’t that far away either. The tune sports a somewhat darker vibe but still with a distinct melody and a direct refrain. Jimmy Waldo provides a delicate keyboard solo as well which mixes fine with the guitar-oriented sound of the song. Very good. The mid-paced “The House” is a melodic Hard Rock tune that’s pretty slick but at the same time crunchy. It’s more earthy and is also on the darker side with less guitar heroism – and it suits the band well. A stellar rocker!

“Sea Of Trees” is also on the heavier, tougher and punchier side of Melodic Rock. Yes, it is shaped in early 80’s Hard Rock sound but with a more gritty outcome. It’s a good song but I find the verses better and more catchy than the actual chorus that almost gets lost here. “Man On The Corner” is a fast, Metal influenced blaster that reminds me of Alcatrazz and boy do Tafolla get to shred here. While it’s a kicking and biting track it still holds a lot of memorable melodies with lots of catchiness which hits me in the right place. “We Don’t Need Another Hero” is a Tina Turner cover – it was in the Mad Max Beyond The Thunderdome movie – and this is the song that brings the Pop and AOR to the album, a brave and unexpected move. I can’t say that I adore the original – I like it some – but in the hands of GBB the tune is a winner and it fits Bonnet’s voice like a charm. He do get to show off some vocal skills here. It’s a great version and since it’s catchy as hell, they should release it as a single.

The next rant on Trump’s prejudice America is called “America… Where Have you Gone”, about gun control. It’s an uptempo, neo-classic laden mid 80’s hard-rocker. Guitar wise, it kind of sounds like Yngwie Malmsteen having a beer with Ritchie Blackmore and they’re looking for a fight. Tafolla really nails this one. It’s tough and rough but at the same time melodic and catchy – and it takes no prisoners. Awesome! “Heading Toward The Light” is a Classic Rock track, very groovy, rhythmic and slightly progressive. It holds a slight Pomp vibe as well as an Eastern influence in the melodies. But for most it’s a big Melodic Hard Rock track that holds a magnificent chorus that catches on pretty much right off the bat. Very good indeed. “Past Lives” is a fast paced rocker that goes back to his Impellitteri days but his MSG days also comes to mind. The tune comes with a typical Bonnet vocals melody but quality wise the tune holds up but doesn’t impress. It’s good but never reaches great.

“The Crying Chair” is a neo-classic influenced rock ballad that style-wise is more reminiscent of Yngwie Malmsteen’s late 80’s than his Alcatrazz days. And speaking of Malmsteen, the solo sounds like the bastard child of him and Gary Moore. Say of that what you will but I think it sounds fantastic. The tune itself is slow, dark and heavy with plenty of hooks and a refrain that really hits a home-run – and Bonnet sings like a champion here. A brilliant track! As the closing track we get a live version of a song called “Starcarr Lane”. It’s an upbeat, heavy rocker, big on hooks and memorable melodies with a raunchy sound. The band is on fire here, tight and in-your-face and ready to kill. I don’t know how much of it that have been fixed in the studio afterwards but it sure both feels and sounds live. Very good.

After The Book – which was a happy surprise – and the fact that Bonnet and his band-mates has delivered the goods once again on this album, it’s safe to say that there’s still life left in Bonnet. Fact is, I don’t know many singers in Bonnet’s age that still holds up so well vocally as Bonnet does. Impressing. Sound wise, Bonnet sticks to well-tried recipes here but why change something that works? This stuff is what he does best and when he and his gang can come up with a bunch of really great songs, I don’t see any reason to go off into unknown territories. This album rocks, there’s no cheesy Pop songs around, just good, punchy melodic Hard Rock performed by an awesome band and a rough and hard yet smooth and melodic production – a winner and Bonnet’s best solo effort to date! Looks like Graham Bonnet are back for real now.

8/10

More Graham Bonnet Band reviews:

The Book

Tracklist:

1. Meanwhile Back In The Garage
2. The Hotel
3. Livin’ In Suspicion
4. Incest Outcest USA
5. Long Island Tea
6. The House
7. Sea Of Trees
8. Man On The Corner
9. We Don’t Need Another Hero
10. America… Where Have You Gone
11. Heading Toward The Light
12. Past Lives
13. The Crying Chair
14. Starcarr Lane (Live From Daryl’s House NY 2018)

 

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