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Non-Prog CD Reviews

Graham Bonnet

Reel to Real: 1987 - The Archives - 1992

Review by Gary Hill

This new box set from Graham Bonnett is a three CD set. The first includes previously unreleased studio recordings dating between 1987 and 1992. The first three tracks of that disc were recorded in Los Angeles with one group of musicians. The rest were recorded in Australia with a different set of musicians. The second and third discs are both live recordings from 1989 in Australia.

If this were filed just under the studio album, I'd probably put it under "heavy metal," but with the addition of the live stuff, it lands under "non-prog." That first disc includes some cool music, but some of the tapes didn't seem to be preserved all that well. The sound quality on the other two sets is questionable as they were apparently audience recorded bootlegs. Still, this is a lot of previously unavailable stuff that should please Bonnett's fans.

This review is available in book format (hardcover and paperback) in Music Street Journal: 2018  Volume 4 at lulu.com/strangesound.

Track by Track Review
CD 1
             
Reel to Real
              
Tonite I Fly

This is a classy metallic stomper that starts mellow and works out to more rocking stuff as it continues.

Reel to Real
Another killer metal stomper, I like this a lot. It's packed with meaty sounds and is just so cool.
The Dancer
Coming in mellower, there are moments where this feels a bit awkward to me. Still, it has enough magic to make up for it. It drives upward to more rocking stuff as it continues. It really gets quite powerful for the closing section with soaring vocals and some killer guitar working together to create something special.
Whiplash

This comes in a bit mellow, but threatens to rock out from there. It works to sort of a mainstream hard rock meets metal vibe. This is arguably the meanest and most metal of this whole first CD.  The guitar solo on this is classy.

Long Time Gone
This one doesn't really land under metal at all, but there is a guitar riff on this at points that makes me think of Angus Young. The tune overall is sort of a middle of the road rocker. It's not bad, but it's definitely not a standout.
Summer in the City
This is an updating of the old chestnut. It's turned toward a harder rocking metallic approach. I have to say that I really like this version a lot. It smokes the original, and I always liked that tune.
River Deep Mountain High
Here we get another cover tune. While this works pretty well, I definitely don't like it as much as I do the previous one. This is much more of a mainstream rock and roller than it is metallic at all.
Midnight Crossing
Now, this one lands more in the metal vicinity for sure. It's a cool stomper that's mid-tempo and quite tasty. It has some solid hooks. There are some sonic artifacts here that seem to indicate that something was wrong with the master tapes.
Rider
This one has some definite recording issues, too. Still, it's a pretty cool metallic rocker if you can ignore those problems. Again, it's hard edged and meaty, but has some cool hooks.
Double Cross My Heart (1992)
A cool rocker, this is tasty stuff. It's more of a mainstream rocker than it is a metallic piece. It's still very effective, and the hook is classic.
Hearts Under Fire (1992)
This hard rocker has metallic elements at play. Still, it's more of a mainstream rock tune that it is anything else.
Dead Man Walking (Bonus Track: 2008)
This is full on heavy metal. It's very heavy and very mean. It's a real screamer. That said, it works out to a little psychedelic rock inspired bridge mid-track.
CD 2
          
Live at the Palace, Melbourne, Australia: February 24th 1989
            
God Blessed Video

They open the show with one of the best known tracks from Alcatrazz. They put in a solid performance of it, but the recording is a bit lacking at times. Given the audio sounds heard on this song, it's obvious that this was an audience recorded bootleg. As such it's not bad.

Island in the Sun
Another Alcatrazz song, this works pretty well. The recording is better. This rocks pretty well.
S.O.S.
Another hard rocker, the audience noise on this one is pretty distracting. I dig the hooks on this cut, though.
Will You Be Home Tonight
Here's another Alcatrazz song. This starts with keyboards. The bass enters and brings a bit of a rocking texture. The vocals come in non-lyrically over that before they work out to the rocking song proper.
It's All over Now Baby Blue
This rocker is fun. It's a catchy cut with a real old school texture. It's just a good time piece.
Only One Woman
Another that's more of a mainstream rocker here, this is good, but not what I would consider a highlight. It has a lot of soulful vibe to it.
Desert Song
This rocker is such a cool song. It works well here, and the recording quality isn't much of a distraction. That makes this one of the best pieces on this second CD of the set.
River Deep Mountain High
This number gets a live telling here. This seems to rock harder than it did on the previous CD. It's a bit on the noisy side, though, and the recording quality does it no favors.
Summer in the City
The crowd noise is pretty bad on this tune. Still, this rocking cut works pretty well here. I l prefer the version on the previous CD, but this is still solid.
Since You Been Gone
This Russ Ballard song from Bonnet's time in Rainbow gets a solid live performance here. The recording on this seems better than that on some of the other tunes.
Drum Solo
I'm not a big fan of drum solos, so this is kind of a "skip" track for me. Your mileage may vary because as drum solos go, it's pretty good.
Lost in Hollywood
This powers in out of the drum solo. It's a fast paced rocker that works pretty well. The recording definitely doesn't serve it well, though.
Dancer
Another solid rocking piece, again the recording quality is a detriment.
All Night Long
Coming from Bonnet's time in Rainbow, this has a long audience participation section built into it here.
Warm Ride
A song written by The Bee Gees, this is a good pop rocker. It's not a highlight, but it works well.
CD 3
                 
Live in Adelaide, 1989
           
Intro

This short bit has some acapella vocals.

God Blessed Video
This Alcatrazz song gets a smoking hot live version that rocks out like crazy. The only problem is the sound quality which is not very good.
Island in the Sun

Another Alcatrazz song, this works pretty well in this live telling. The recording seems to hold up a bit better than that on the last number did.

S.O.S
This rocker feels a bit rough here, largely due the recording quality.
Will You Be Home Tonight
A mainstream rocker, the sound quality here feels a little better.
It's All over Now, Baby Blue
This old school rocker gets a good live telling here.
Only One Woman
Here we get another rendition of the song we heard on the other disc. This rendition is solid, but there is a lot of audience noise here.
Desert Song
Coming in metallic, this is more of a stomper, but it also has a lot audience noise in this recording.
River Deep - Mountain High
Somehow this seems to work better than on the other live release. It has some cool horns and manages to really rock.
Summer in the City
Here we get another live rendition of this classic tune. I like this performance a lot, and while there are sound quality issues, it's not bad.
Since You Been Gone
There is an abrupt transition between this song and the previous one. Sounding like a paused section was used to save space on a blank tape that was used to record the show, the cut fires out rather quickly after that and works pretty well. This version might be stronger than the one on the other disc. The sound quality seems better.
Drum Solo
Here we have the drum solo for this show. Again, it's not my thing, but if you are a fan of drum solos, give it a try.
Lost in Hollywood
Coming out of the drum solo, this is a fast paced hard rocker that works pretty well, but the sound quality is really dropped down from the rest.
All Night Long
Here we get the performance of this tune from this concert. As with the other show there is extended audience participation here.
Warm Ride
This rendition of "Warm Ride" works pretty well. The sound almost seems better here.
 
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