Title - 'Solo Albums 1974-1992' [6-CD Box-Set]
Artist - Graham Bonnet
Although the Skegness, UK-born Graham Bonnet is probably best known for the melodic hard rock he fronted in the 1980s with Ritchie’s Blackmore Rainbow, The Michael Schenker Group, and his own band, Alcatrazz, his musical odyssey started with the duo The Marbles in 1968.
Despite top ten success, Graham’s undeniable talents languished in relative obscurity until he appeared as front man with the fictitious band Billy Beethoven in the 1975 cinematic romp, Three Of A Kind, co-starring his then wife, Adrienne Posta.
This largely forgotten piece of cinematic history did however lead to Graham recording what was meant to be his debut solo outing for DJM Records, Back Row In The Stalls.
Although this album was thought long lost, thankfully a cassette taken from the master tape was found, and transferred for release by HNE. Subsequently, the original production master was found, allowing a much superior remaster, released here for the very first time.
Although the more pop orientated material may be a surprise to fans of the man that brought us ‘Lost In Hollywood’ and ‘Eyes Of the World’, it certainly paved the way for his debut solo LP proper, 1977’s self-titled Graham Bonnet.
What makes this rare collection an extra treat is the inclusion of seven bonus tracks, six of which are taken from the A and B-Sides of the singles ‘Whisper In The Night’ b/w ‘Rare Specimen’ from 1972, ‘Trying To Say Goodbye’ b/w ‘Castles In The Air’ from 1973 and a very rare 1973 single from Graham’s then wife, the actress Adrienne Posta, ‘Dog Song’ b/w ‘Express Yourself’ from 1973; both featuring Graham.
Back Row In The Stalls (1974) [2020 REMASTER]
1. 'Here Comes The Rain'
2. 'What's This 'Ere Then'
3. 'Private Eye'
4. 'Ghost Writer In My Eye'
5. 'Saturday's Over'
6. 'Back Row In The Stalls'
7. 'She May Be Not Much To Look At (But She Certainly Got A Heart)'
8. 'Ade's Song'
9. 'Mamma Mine'
11. 'She May Be Not Much To Look At (But She's Certainly Got A Heart)' (Version 2)
12. 'Don't Drink The Water'
13. 'Dreams (Out In The forest)'
14. 'We're Free'
15. 'Whisper In The Night' (Single A-Side, 1972) [BONUS TRACK]
16. 'Rare Specimen' (Single B-Side, 1972) [BONUS TRACK]
17. 'Trying To Say Goodbye' (Single A-Side, 1973) [BONUS TRACK}
18. 'Castles In The Air' (Single B-Side, 1973) [BONUS TARCK]
19. 'Dog Song' (Adrienne Posta) [BONUS TRACK]
20. 'Express Yourself' (Adrienne Posta) [BONUS TRACK]
21. 'Message To Trevor' [BONUS TRACK]
The album begins with the young, fresh-faced vocal pitch of ‘Here Comes The Rain,’ and is backed by both the spoken/sung ‘What's This 'Ere Then,’ the swing, fast-paced piano vibe of ‘Private Eye,’ and both ‘Ghost Writer in My Eye’ and ‘Saturday's Over.’
The (show tune) title track, ‘Back Row in the Stalls’ is a true stand out track, and highlights Bonnet’s vocals and musical knowledge of tones and notes.
That’s followed by a fun and vibrant ding-a-ling of a track, ‘She May Be Not Much to Look At (But She's Certainly Got a Heart)’, with the ballad Ade's Song,’ the rocker ‘Mamma Mine’, the show tune 'Relaxae,’ and then the powerhaus ’Don't Drink the Water’ all following along thereafter.
The mid-tempo ‘Dreams (Out in the Forest)’ is next, and the original album rounds out with the Doo-Wop vibe of ‘We’re Free.’
As for the Bonus Tracks, the dusky piano ballad ‘Whisper in the Night' leads the way, with the Speakeasy vibe of ‘Rare Specimen,' the pop-rock of ‘Trying to Say Goodbye,' the ballad ‘Castles in the Air,' and then the newly-remastered album rounds out with the childish fun of ‘Dog Song' and 'Express Yourself' (both Adrienne Posta-imbued), and closes on the upbeat fun of 'Message To Trevor.'
Graham’s style was originally geared more towards pop and R&B orientated music, recording a number of obscure, but now highly collectable 45s in the early 1970s, before releasing his eponymous titled debut in 1977 for Ringo Records.
Kicking off with Bob Dylan’s ‘It’s All over Now, Baby Blue’, 1977’s Graham Bonnet certainly draws upon some classic songwriters, with Goffin and King’s ‘Will You Love Me Tomorrow?’, a track briefly resurrected by Rainbow at the 1980 Monsters of Rock, Al Green’s ‘Tired Of Being Alone’ and ‘Goodnight And Good Morning’, originally from Hall & Oates’ Whole Oats LP.
Produced by Pip Williams and engineered by John Eden, both of whom are probably best known for their work with Status Quo, Graham Bonnet is augmented by no less than seven bonus tracks, including ‘Heroes On My Picture Wall’, the B-Side of ‘It’s All over Now, Baby Blue’.
Graham Bonnet (1977)
1. 'It's All Over Now, Baby Blue'
2. 'Will You Love Me Tomorrow?'
3. 'Tired of Being Alone'
4. 'Wino Song'
5. 'It Ain't Easy'
6. 'Goodnight and Goodmorning'
8. 'Sunday 16'
9. 'Rock Island Line'
10. 'Soul Seeker'
11. 'Heroes on My Picture Wall' (Single B-Side, 1977) [BONUS TRACK]
12. 'Goodnight and Goodmorning' (Single Edit) [BONUS TRACK]
13. 'I Who Am I' (Graham Bonnet & Vicky Silva, 1977) [BONUS TRACK]
14. 'The Loving Touch' (Graham Bonnet & Vicky Silva, 1976) [BONUS TACK]
15. 'Do What You Gotta Do' (Demo) [BONUS TRACK]
16. 'It Ain't Easy' (Demo) [BONUS TRACK]
17. 'You've Lost That Lovin' Feeling' (Demo) [BONUS TRACK]
With Bonnet's future as a hard rock singer with Rainbow and Michael Schenker, amongst others, still a little way off, the style here may surprise some.
However the pop/soul/R&B approach certainly suits his voice to a tee and also, at least in places, does reveal some rock oomph. Indeed that latter aspect shows up through the excellent guitar playing of future Whitesnake man Micky Moody, although with the likes of 'Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow' and 'Tired Of Being Alone' (bar one or two songs, the whole album is cover versions, or outside sourced tracks), the guitar does tend to take a back seat.
Unsurprisingly everything feels very much of its time, the waca-waca-waca riffs a nod to disco, while classy string atmospheres tend, along with brass, to take a lot of the limelight.
However with Bonnet at the mic, there really could be only one star and even taking into account that the nearest this album flirted with success was a minor chart hit in Australia (with a good version of Bob Dylan's 'It's All Over Baby Blue', although even this petered out quite quickly) his vocal ability is quite astounding.
Wasting no time at all, his debut was followed up in 1978 by No Bad Habits, again produced by Pip Williams. Featuring the singles ‘Can’t Complain’ and a cover of the Bee Gee’s ‘Warm Ride’, the bonus tracks include ‘10/12 Observation’, the B-Side of ‘Warm Ride’, as well as a “disco” version of the track ‘Warm Ride’.
The following year, Graham would be enlisted to join Ritchie Blackmore, Roger Glover, Don Airey and Cozy Powell in Rainbow, and that band’s commercial breakthrough album, Down To Earth.
Graham Bonnet and No Bad Habits remain fitting testimonials to this singular artist’s progress as a singer and musician.
No Bad Habits (1978)
1. 'I'll Be Your Baby Tonight'
2. 'Won't You Join Me'
3. 'Warm Ride'
4. 'Is There a Way to Sing the Blues'
5. 'Can't Complain'
6. 'Givin' Up My Worryin'
8. 'Only You Can Lift Me'
9. 'Stand Still Stella'
10. 'High School Angel'
11. 'Cold Lady'
12. '10/12 Observation' (Single B-Side of 'Warm Ride') [BONUS TRACK]
13. 'Only You Can Lift Me' (Single Edit) [BONUS TRACK]
14. 'Such a Shame' (Single B-Side of 'Only You Can Lift Me') BONUS TRACK]
15. 'Warm Ride' (12" Long Disco Version) [BONUS TRACK]
16. 'Warm Ride' (12" Long Version) [BONUS TRACK]
In ways it's more of the same here from his self-titled album, the soul/pop/R&B mix of covers given a '70s mainstream sheen, and of course, a serious vocal workout.
This time the album itself would take hold in Australia but as before the UK pretty much ignored an excellent take on future Status Quo cut 'Givin' Up My Worrying,' the jaunty 'Won't You Join Me' and it's very 'The Lion Sleeps Tonight'-like chorus), or the out and out disco of the Gibb/Gibb/Gibb (in other words The Bee Gees) penned 'Warm Ride'.
Thankfully however, one person who didn't ignore Bonnet was Rainbow bassist Roger Glover, who having heard the singer's version of 'Will You Love Me Tomorrow' from the Graham Bonnet album, scurried off with the record to let Rainbow main man Ritchie Blackmore hear it!
The guitarist agreeing to Bonnet was the unexpected choice to replace Ronnie James Dio in their band, but the rest, as they say, is history.
Graham Bonnet enjoyed a solo career throughout the 1970s, but truly made his mark with Ritchie Blackmore’s Rainbow in 1979. The album Down To Earth was propelled to global success by the hit singles ‘All Night Long’ and ‘Since You Been Gone’, but would be the sole studio record to feature Bonnet, who would make the inaugural Monsters Of Rock festival at Castle Donington in 1980 his final Rainbow show.
Signing to Vertigo Records, the release of Line Up in 1981 was preceded by the Top 10 hit single ‘Night Games’. Produced by John Eden, famed for his work with Status Quo, plus Quo’s Francis Rossi, a band was assembled around Whitesnake’s Jon Lord on keyboards and Mick Moody on guitar, former Rainbow and future Whitesnake drummer Cozy Powell, then drumming with Michael Schenker, as well as guest spots from Quo’s Andy Bown, Rick Partfitt and Francis Rossi, who co-produced two of the album’s tracks.
Although continuing in the melodic hard rock vein of Rainbow, Bonnet still brought his R&B roots to the record, and draws on material from some classic songwriters, such as Russ Ballard (‘S.O.S.’ and ‘Liar’), The Kinks’ Ray Davies (‘Set Me Free’), Chuck Berry (‘Anthony Boy’) and The Ronettes’ ‘Be My Baby’.
Bob Young and Micky Moody also contribute three songs to the set. This disc features four bonus tracks, including two non-album B-sides, making this is the definitive version of this melodic rock classic (of which the album is, and always has been, my second favorite album to Down To Earth!).
1. 'Night Games'
3. 'I’m A Lover'
4. 'Be My Baby'
5. 'That's The Way That It Is'
7. 'Anthony Boy'
8. 'Dirty Hand'
9. 'Out On The Water'
10. 'Don't Stand In The Open'
11. 'Set Me Free'
12. 'Don't Tell Me To Go' (B-side) [BONUS TRACK]
13. 'Bad Days Are Gone' (B-Side) [BONUS TRACK]
14. 'Night Games' (Single Edit) [BONUS TRACK]
15. 'Out On The Water' (Single Edit) [BONUS TRACK]
Anyway, Line-Up kicks off with arguably the best song on the album, 'Night Games.' [Incidentally, the video for this, where he and all his incredible, star-studded band mates are on stage singing, Bonnet's neck straining each lyric, is still embedded in my mind!] Following that single is the more melodic Russ Ballard-penned 'S.O.S.' which in turns gets followed by the mellow 'I'm A Lover.'
A cover of The Ronettes' 'Be My Baby' is next, and as much as it is truly out of place, 'That's The Way It Is' follows and gets us back on track. But it's another huge '80s hit, again penned by Russ Ballard, 'Liar' that truly sends us back in time.
Man, what a crackin' song to have playing at full blast whilst driving, top down on a summer's afternoon! The swingin' rock of Chuck Berry's 'Anthony Boy' is next, before the complete rock out of 'Dirty Hand' is lovingly upon us.
'Out On The Water' provides us another look into the depth of Bonnet's gravel-laced voice, before 'Don't Stand In The Open,' with the bouncy, and Ray Davies-penned 'Set Me Free' rounding the original album out just perfectly.
Now complete with four (4) previously unavailable (on CD) tracks from that recording session, we are also now privy to 'Don't Tell Me To Go' (b-side), 'Bad Days' (b-side), 'Night Games (Single Edit)' and then 'Out On The Water' (Single Edit).
In truth, there's nothing special here among the foursome, as I've got the 7" singles the b-sides came from, and the Single Edits are just a massive they-sound-the-same-as-the-album-tracks cop out.
That all said, Line-Up still stands the musical test of time and if you don't believe me, try it out for yourself one summer's day.
1991’s Here Comes The Night saw Graham move far away from his more rock orientated path to take a more pop flavored approach, including covers of Ray Davies ‘I Go To Sleep’, Denny Laine’s ‘Eyes Of A Child’, Leiber & Stoller’s ‘Don’t’ and James Brown’s ‘I’ll Go Crazy’.
Here Comes The Night (1991)
1. 'Something About You'
2. 'Here Comes The Night'
3. 'Long Time Gone'
4. 'Only One Woman'
5. 'Please Call Me'
6. 'A Change Is Gonna Come'
7. 'I’ll Go Crazy'
8. 'I Go To Sleep'
9. 'Look Don't Touch'
10. 'Eyes Of A Child'
12. 'What She Says, You Hear It Means'
INSTRUMENTAL DEMOS [BONUS TRACKS]
13. 'Gone In A Minute'
14. 'A Hole In My Soul'
15. 'Please Call Me'
16. 'Greenwich Meantime'
The mastermind behind the whole enterprise is guitarist/producer Ray Fenwick, more known as the guitarist for the first the solo Ian Gillan albums (CHILD IN TIME, CLEAR AIR TURBULENCE and SCARABUS).
For all intents and purposes, this is a crooner album. Inclusive of a lot of horn work, gentle melodies and en masse of slow songs, they all have been expertly produced and interpreted, and, lo and behold, Bonnet's voice fits them perfectly!
Highlights here on this long forgotten gem (to my mind), are cuts such as 'A Change Is Gonna Come', 'I'll Go Crazy' and 'I Go To Sleep,' but even with the inclusion of those instrumental demos, the album is truly only built for the most hardcore Bonnet-collecting fans.
Featuring newly remastered audio, Reel To Real: The Archives 1987-1992 kicks off with three track recorded in Los Angeles in 1987 with Danny Johnson on guitar.
Tracks 4 – 9 were recorded in Australia, April 1989. ‘You Are Your Money’ and ‘Dead Man Walking’ are two demo tracks from EZoo, a collaboration between Graham and Dario Mollo.
Digging even deeper, ‘Glass Mountain’ and ‘Red Rum’ are two tracks recorded with Norwegian metallers Tomorrow’s Outlook. In 2015, Graham formed the Graham Bonnet Band, releasing the My Kingdom Come EP, with a title track courtesy of Russ Ballard and featuring ‘The Mirror Lies’.
This extensive collection finishes off with 'Unleash The Beast’ by Rough Rockers and finally ‘Hippie Heart, Gypsy Soul’ from Wishing Well and as much as it truly rocks, it is yet another album that, to my mind, is truly only built for the most hardcore Bonnet-collecting fans.
Reel To Real: The Archives (1987-1992) [2020 Remaster]
1. 'Tonite I Fly' (1987)
2. 'Reel To Real' (1987)
3. 'The Dancer' (1987)
4. 'Whiplash' (1989)
5. 'Long Time Gne' (1989)
6. 'Summer In the City' (1989)
7. 'River Deep - Mountain High' (1989)
8. 'Midnight Crossing' (1989)
9. 'Rider' (1989)
10. 'Double Cross My Heart' (1992)
11. 'Hearts Under Fire' (1992)
12. 'You Are Your Money'
13. 'Dead Man Walking'
14. 'Glass Mountain'
15. 'Red Rum'
16. 'My Kingdom Come'
17. 'Mirror Lies'
18. 'Unleash The Beaast'
19. 'Hippie Heart, Gypsy Soul'
With no income to pay the bills, Bonnet moved to Australia and set about joining the Zep Boys, who, as their name suggested, were a Led Zeppelin tribute band.
Playing a handful of low key gigs in social clubs and hotels around the area early in 1989, the singer and band started shaping up a set of Alcatrazz, Rainbow and Schenker covers, alongside some other tracks that had previously been hits for Bonnet in Australia.
While two new cover version were also trotted out, Ike & Tina Turner’s 'Mountain Deep, River High' and The Loovin Spoonful’s 'Summer In The City,' Reel To Real shines a light on that time by offering a studio disc bringing together the three Alcatrazz cuts and the six songs he recorded in Australia, along with three other slightly later recordings.