Album review: GRAHAM BONNET – Solo Albums 1974-1992

In August 2017 Graham Bonnet chatted to David Randall about his career for Get Ready to ROCK! Radio. This hour special includes several tracks featured in the latest box set.

GRAHAM BONNET - Solo Albums 1974-1992

Cherry Red [Release date 27.11.20]

Skegness born Graham Bonnet is best known for fronting Rainbow, MSG and nowadays, Swedish/American/British band, Alcatrazz. And perhaps too for his first UK hit, (with the duo, Marbles), ‘Only One Woman’, written by the Bee Gees.

His early career has always taken something of a backseat. This “Solo Albums” Boxset is effectively a pop and hard rock CV that should convince the Rock’n'Roll Hall of Fame supremoes that a solo Bonnet deserves immediate admission.

As the teenagers-at-the-movies reference suggests, Back Row In The Stalls (CD1/1974) is something from a different era entirely. The occasional politically incorrect song title will confirm it. The album (restored from the original master tapes, until recently thought destroyed), is initially underwhelming. A pop singer singing pop songs is not what we expect. But there’s something there, you can hear it, sense it. Enough to get him a contract and a second solo album.

This remastered version comes with 7 bonus tracks… his now out of print single releases, A&B sides, pre 1974.

CD2/1977, Graham Bonnet took no chances. The Status Quo production team (Williams and Eden) and covers of songs written by Dylan, Hall& Oates, Goffin& King and Al Green added up to a surefooted, safety first approach. Bonnet was remarkably popular in Australia, perhaps because of the Marbles/BeeGees connection. (The Gibb brothers had recorded extensively in Oz). That translated into a gold selling album and a Top ten charting single, ‘It’s All Over Now, Baby Blue’.

Another bumper bundle of bonus tracks is included.

CD3/1978. On a roll now, Bonnet recorded No Bad Habits a year later. He’d learned from his previous album. He again covered a classy Dylan song, ‘I’ll Be Your Baby Tonight’. And again covered the Bee Gees, his single version of ‘Warm Ride’ was another huge Australian hit for Bonnet. But it wasn’t just the hits, Bonnet was clearly a much more confident, convincing vocalist now. Success does that.

That year, Ritchie Blackmore offered him the frontman role in Rainbow, previously held down by Ronnie James Dio. Globally, the band’s best selling album “Down To Earth” and best selling singles ‘Since You Been Gone’ and ‘All Night Long’ is all the evidence we need that the Graham Bonnet version was the band’s most successful iteration.

CD4/ 1981. Nothing succeeds like success. Fresh from his worldwide fame, Bonnet recorded his fourth solo album, Line-Up with the help of a cast of the great and the good from the UK rock’n'roll scene. The band included Mick Moody, Jon Lord and Cozy Powell. Two tracks were produced by a trio of members from Status Quo.

Bonnet had undoubtedly absorbed all the ideas that surrounded him over the years. He had especially noted the worldwide popularity of Rainbow’s Melodic Hard Rock. It gave him a large palette to work from.

In his earlier releases, he’d proved good judgement in picking the right songwriters to cover. Prodigious talents, Russ Ballard (understandably), Ray Davies, Phil Spector and the always underrated, but extremely talented Bob (Status Quo) Young were all in the “Line Up” mix.

The almost obligatory bonus tracks are here too on this CD. Four in number, including special edits of the albums hit singles, ‘Night Games’ and ‘Out On The Water’.

CD5/ 1991. Ten years later, Bonnet threw the machine into reverse. Here Comes The Night is a return to the classic pop tropes of his earlier material. Once again proving to be an astute judge of songwriters and suitable songs to cover, he picked material written by Denny (Wings/Moody Blues) Laine, Ray Davies and uber songwriter/producers, Lieber & Stoller.

Adding two outliers – one a James Brown cover and the other a Sam Cooke, just to remind us of his Soulful Rhythm& Blues roots, which we first saw filtering through his self titled 1977 recording. No matter your views on Bonnet’s chosen musical stylings here, this is high calibre stuff. As always, he chooses well.

CD6/ 1992, Reel To Real, The Archives is a remastered, 19 track mixed bag of material cherry picked from Bonnet’s grasshopping musical activities through the years 1987-92. It includes tracks recorded in LA with guitarist, Danny Johnson, and unused (surprisingly) demo material he put together with Dario Mollo for their EZoo project.

The original “Real To Real” has been expanded here to include several stray tracks recorded with European bands, but particularly an EP, “My Kingdom Come”, which was released by the “Graham Bonnet Band” in 2015, which again leans heavily on Russ Ballard’s singularly distinctive material.

As Bonnet aficionados will know, Even at 6 CDs, this package is only a (widescreen) snapshot of the man’s career as a musician, but all the same, it is an absorbing insight into how it evolved, and the influences that shaped its evolution.

Review by Brian McGowan

The latest Facebook Live session from Canadian singer-songwriter Josh Taerk (Sunday 23 May )
Next session: Sunday 27 June, 21:00 GMT and 16:00 EST

More about Josh

David Randall presents a weekly show on Get Ready to ROCK! Radio, Sundays at 22:00 BST (GMT+1, repeated on Mondays and Fridays), when he invites listeners to ‘Assume The Position’. This show was first broadcast on 23 May 2021 and includes the Top 10 albums at for that week.

UK Blues Broadcaster of the Year (2020 and 2021 Finalist) Pete Feenstra presents his weekly Rock & Blues Show on Tuesday at 19:00 ( BST, GMT+1) as part of a five hour blues rock marathon “Tuesday is Bluesday at GRTR!”. The show is repeated on Wednesdays at 22:00, Fridays at 20:00). This show was first broadcast 25 May 2021.

Listen in to Get Ready to ROCK! Radio…
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