CD: Graham Bonnet Band - Meanwhile Back in the Garage The former Rainbow singer preaches to the fait
Graham "Since You Been Gone" Bonnet has long been one of hard rock’s unlikelier stars. When everyone else was wearing denim and leather he modelled himself on James Dean. And he actually started out as an R&B singer. Bonnet's change of direction came in 1979 when he was asked to join rock supergroup Rainbow. He never looked back. After Rainbow he joined the Michael Schenker Group and later formed his own band, Alcatrazz. Now, at 70, he's still ploughing the same musical furrow.
In fact, Meanwhile Back in the Garage sounds so close to Bonnet's earlier band it could almost be a bunch of Alcatrazz outtakes. Partly it's the melodies. Mainly, it's how the new band plays. Bonnet's voice still has its air-raid siren intensity (even if it quivers a little at its limits), and shredder-guitarist Joey Tafolla achieves the unlikely feat of sounding both like Yngwie Malmsteen and Steve Vai, the two Alcatrazz virtuosos.
The whole thing is an admirable effort. While many old-school rock groups are still making albums, few seriously try to compete with their back catalogue. This one couldn't invite stronger comparisons with the singer's best work. That'll be appreciated by those Bonnet fans who found bits of the first Graham Bonnet Band LP a little soft.
The change of personnel on this record has got rid of all that flabbiness. At its best, the LP feels as comforting as picking out an old slab of vinyl from the Eighties. The title track is a great example. Widdly-widdly guitars lie atop galloping drums while Bonnet sings like his pants are on fire. Russ Ballard, composer of "Since You Been Gone", also contributes a song. "Living in Suspicion" may not be his finest, but it doesn't need to be.
Not all the tracks work quite as well. "Long Island Tea" sounds harsh and melodramatic. And God knows why Bonnet decided to cover Tina Turner's "We Don't Need Another Hero". Bonnet's lyrics are also a mixed bag. Back in the day he got away with his gauche documentary style. Here, I'm not so sure. "Incest Outcest USA", about cases of rural American inbreeding, is particularly bizarre.
Still, if the occasional song jars, it hardly matters. Meanwhile Back in the Garage is not going to be listened to be a general audience. It's likely to be bought by the classic rock faithful. And they will find plenty of tasty morsels to chew on here.