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Graham Bonnet

Solo Albums 1974-1992

Review by Gary Hill

Even if all you know from Graham Bonnet is his two best-known bands, Rainbow and Alcatrazz, you have to know that there is a wide range of sounds in his repertoire. Once you delve into his solo work the range becomes even wider. This new collection gathers up six albums of his (along with bonus tracks) into cool box set. Trying to nail down the sound would be really difficult. It starts with very old-school music, often inspired by 50s rock and ends with heavy metal. In between we get a lot of styles.

Of interest to Yes fans, Rick Wakeman is one of the keyboardists credited on the first CD, but it doesn't specify which songs he plays on. Cozy Powell and Jon Lord are both on the fourth CD. Don Airey is featured on the CD five of the set. This is a cool set, and would make a great introduction to the diverse world that is the Bonnet's catalog. It should be noted that I reviewed earlier versions of the last two CDs here. For the sake of consistency the track reviews of the songs I had previously reviewed here are either copied from those reviews or modified from those reviews.

This review is available in book (paperback and hardcover) form in Music Street Journal: 2021  Volume 2. More information and purchase links can be found at: garyhillauthor.com/Music-Street-Journal-2021.

Track by Track Review
CD1:
                       
Back Row in the Stalls (1974) Expanded Remaster
                     
Here Comes The Rain

Feeling a bit like something Eric Clapton might do, this number isn't all that effective to me. It has a pop rock vibe to it and some Beatles-like leanings, though. The more powered up movement later does a good job of elevating the track. It gets into some fairly powerful territory in that part of the track.

What's This 'Ere Then
I like this song a bit more. It's more pop music based with a bouncy kind of arrangement. I love the multi-layered vocal arrangement. This is just a fun little song.
Private Eye
Violin (or should I say "fiddle?") brings a real country music edge to this tune. It's energized and bouncy. This is odd, but fun. The "shoobe doo wop" vocals that worked pretty well on the last tune are back here in a less effective way.
Ghost Writer In My Eye
Now, this rocker feels a lot like both The Beatles and Eric Clapton. It's energetic, entertaining and one of the highlights of this first CD. I dig the piano work on the tune, and the passion really shines on the number.
Saturday's Over

This is a full-on doo wop tune. While it works pretty well, it's not my kind of thing. I'd consider it one of the weakest things on this first disc.

Back Row In The Stalls
Another with a real retro sound to it, there is a jazzy vibe to this. It has a real old-school pop music groove. I love the horns, and this tune works well.
She May Be Not Much To Look At (But She's Certainly Got A Heart)
Another bouncy pop rock tune, this has an island feeling to it. It makes me think of something Ringo Starr might do.
Ade's Song
This is a tasty little tune. It has a soulful vibe with some rock music in the mix. I like the whole tone of the tune, and the keyboards bring some style to the table.
Mamma Mine
Now this rocker really has a glam rock meets The Beatles sound. It's a bit generic, but also very effective. T-Rex is on the menu along with David Bowie. I dig the echoey nature and the meaty instrumental texture. This is definitely one of the highlights of the first disc.
Relaxae
A bluesy kind of jazzy romp, this has a lot of old-fashioned leanings built into it. It's a solid number that works pretty well. The piano break is a lot of fun. The old-school guitar solo is tasty, as well. I'm not crazy about the doo wop kind of break further down the road, but the saxophone solo from Mel Collins is on fire.
She May Be Not Much To Look At (But She's Certainly Got A Heart) (Ver. 2)
Here we get another version of the earlier tune. I think that this might be better than the previous one. It's all about the flavorings and not the meat of the tune where the difference emerges, though. There is a weird little jam at the end.
Don't Drink The Water
More of an old school rocker, this is fun. It's not a standout by any measure, it is effective.
Dreams (Out In The Forest)
This feels rather like a Beatles-rocker. It has some psychedelic edges to it along with doo wop elements.
We're Free
Here we get another old-school rock and roll tune. This is not my kind of thing, really, but it's fun enough.
Bonus Tracks:
         
Whisper In The Night

This was the A-side of a single from 1982. It is more of an old-school ballad. I like this better than just about anything on the album proper. The strings are a bit over the top, but the cut is a passionate and powerful one.

Rare Specimen
A playful sort of tune, this isn't all that special. Still, it's entertaining enough. It was originally released as the B-side of the song that preceded it here.
Trying To Say Goodbye
An evocative balladic approach brings this song, which was the A-side of a 1973 single, into being. The cut grows out to more of a bouncing number. This is another that's stronger than the majority of the music on the album proper. I'm reminded a bit of The Beatles' "Eleanor Rigby," but there are definitely other things at play, too.
Castles In The Air
There are a lot of strings in the arrangement on this tune. The piece feels a lot like The Bee Gees. Then again, it is a song that was written by them, and Maurice Gibb is one of the producers. It is also another bonus tune that really is better than a lot of the album proper tunes. This was the B-side of the previous song's single release.
Dog Song
A bouncy old-fashioned styled tune, this features female vocals. It is a lot of fun. It was the A-side of a single released by Adrienne Posta, but credited as "Adrienne Posta featuring Graham Bonnet."
Express Yourself
This is the B-side of the previous tune, and it's credited the same way. Of course, that means it's another with Posta on lead vocals.  I like this a lot.
Message To Trevor
This literally a spoken message.
CD2:
           
Graham Bonnet (1977)
                           
It's All Over Now, Baby Blue

This has a classic rock meets country rock vibe. While this doesn't completely grab me, it's better than a lot of the stuff on the previous album. I like the talk box guitar, and the song reminds me of Rod Stewart to some degree.

Will You Love Me Tomorrow?
I like this soulful tune. It's another that's definitely worlds above the music on the first disc. It has a good horn arrangement and a cool groove.
Tired Of Being Alone
I love the interplay between horn and guitar later in this track. It's another with a lot of blue-eyed soul in the mix. It's another particularly effective piece of music.
Wino Song
More of a driving rocker, this is another winner.
It Ain't Easy
An even meatier rocker, this is a step above the previous tune for me. It has a real 70s rock vibe and a lot of style and charm.
Goodnight And Goodmorning
A more melodic rocker, this even has some hints of progressive rock in the mix. It's a cool track that's mature and well-developed. The extended instrumental movement near the end, laden with classical strings, is decidedly proggy. It's also very cool.
Danny
Now, this feels a bit more like something that might have been on the first disc. It has a 1950s styled rock and roll groove.
Sunday 16
Piano brings this into being. A cool 70s rock and roll vibe comes in from there. This tune is a lot of fun. It has an intriguing mellower bridge, too.
Rock Island Line
There is some real down-home country music in the mix on this number. This has a good energy and a bouncy kind of groove.
Soul Seeker

A killer 70s rock sound is on display here. This is a potent piece that makes for a strong ending to the album proper of the second disc. I love the vocal arrangement and there are some particularly meaty instrumental hooks.

Bonus Tracks:
                 
Heroes on My Picture Wall

I like this bouncy little number. It's melodic, entertaining and classy. It was released as the B-side of a single in 1977.

Goodnight And Goodmorning (Edit)
This tune works just as well in a single edit version.
I Who Am I
With some jazz and contemporary pop elements built into it, this is more of less a powered up ballad. I dig the guitar solo on it.
The Loving Touch
I like this soulful tune quite a bit. It's a fun piece. This was credited as Graham Bonnet and Victy Silva when it was released in 1976.
Do What You Gotta Do
The guitar fills on this are so cool. The tune is another entertaining rocker.
It Ain't Easy
This has a real mainstream soulful rock groove to it. It's a solid number, but does feel like a demo a little in terms of the sound quality. It has some great hooks, though.
You've Lost That Lovin' Feeling
This is pretty much exactly what you would expect. It's nothing special, but it is a bonus.
CD3:
                 
No Bad Habits (1978)
                        
I'll Be Your Baby Tonight

This is a fun 1970s styled rocker. It's just a good time tune.

Won't You Join Me
A bouncy little romp, this is a lot of fun. I dig the horn on the piece. There is a jazzy groove to it. The chorus is anthemic and entertaining.
Warm Ride

Here Bonnet covers another Bee Gees song. This has a bit of a funky edge. The number works really well, actually.

Is There A Way To Sing The Blues
A bluesy rock tune, this is cool stuff. It has a solid vocal arrangement and a great slow groove.
Can't Complain
Another driving tune, this rocker is not Earth-shattering in terms of originality, but it's a lot of fun. The vocals literally get screaming at times.
Givin' Up My Worryin'
Now, this tune reminds me a lot of Bonnet's era of Rainbow. It has a driving pop rock sound. This is catchy and has hints of Sweet. I dig the rocking guitar work later in the tune.
Pyramid
I like the classy rock sound on this number. There are hints of proggy tendencies, while a melodic rock texture is the real star here.
Only You Can Lift Me
This tasty rocker is another that makes me think of Sweet to some degree. It's a strong number that's among the highlights of this third disc. it has some soaring moments and interesting changes. There are some definite reggae elements in the guitar part of the tune.
Stand Still Stella
A bouncy old school rock and roller, this has some really passion and style in it. It sounds like something that would have been at home on the radio in the 1950s. It's not really my kind of thing, but it works pretty well.
High School Angel
This is another with a 1950s rock and roll sound built into it. It wouldn't be a stretch to imagine this fitting in the movie "Grease." Again, it's solid, but doesn't really grab me.
Cold Lady
Now here we are back into 70s blues rocking territory. This is high energy and a lot of fun.
Bonus Tracks:
                   
10/12 Observation

Adult contemporary music, jazz and even some hints of progressive rock merge on this number. This was released as the B-side of the single of "Warm Ride."

Only You Can Lift Me (Edit)
Somehow the reggae elements seem to shine even brighter on this version of the tune. This was released as a single.
Such A Shame
Another B-side of a single, this balladic piece has a lot of emotion and style built into it. It's a strong piece that could have easily made the album proper.
Warm Ride (12' Disco)
Here we get exactly what's described. It is sped up from the original version, raising the tempo and pitch.
Warm Ride (12')
This time around, it's an extended version without the pitch alteration and other disco trappings. This is another solid take on the tune.
CD4:
                
Line-Up (1981)
             
Night Games

A much more hard rocking sound is on hand here. This cut is dramatic and powerful. It really reminds me of some of the meatier music from Rainbow. It still has catchy hooks. It also has a tasty guitar solo. The instrumental break brings some proggy angles along with classical influence.

S.O.S
More on the AOR pop rock side of the Rainbow equation, this is still a solid tune. It's a fun one.
I'm A Lover
More of a blues rocker, I like this tune a lot. It's classy and classic. The vocal performance is particularly strong.
Be My Baby
There are some 50s music elements on this cut. The track is much more of a pop song. It's also one that doesn't work that well for me. Then, it's a cover of the classic tune from 1963.
That's the Way That It Is
We're back into more contemporary hard rocking sound here. This definitely has an 80s vibe, but it also has a good energy and rock groove to it.
Anthony Boy
Here we get another blues rocking tune. This has a real old-school rock and roll sound to it.
Dirty Hand
This is a hard rocking tune. It's a fun piece. The horns bring a bit of a jazz influence.
Out On The Water
Here is a hard-edged rocker with a solid hook. It gets a little repetitive before it's over, but it's a solid tune.
Don't Stand In The Open
Now, this sounds like the AOR side of Rainbow's output. It's a solid rocker and has some catchy hooks.
Set Me Free
Pop rock oriented, this has some meatier moments to it. It also has some things that lean toward classic.
Bonus Tracks:
                          
Don't Tell Me to Go

A pretty straight-ahead rocker, this is a fun tune. Harmonica lends some style and charm. It was released as a b-side of a single.

Bad Days Are Gone
Another that comes from the B-side of a single, this hard rocker has more of the rocking Rainbow element at play.
Night Games (edit)
Here we get a single version of the earlier song. It works particularly well in this shortened format.
Out On The Water (edit)
And, the final bonus track on this CD of the set is the single version of another song from the disc.
CD5:
               
Here Comes the Night (1991)
                         
Something About You

This makes me think of Elton John's "Philadelphia Freedom" in some ways. This is a soulful pop rocker. It's fun, but a big change from some of the music on the other CDs.

Here Comes the Night
Old school R&B sounds are the idea here. This is a mellow cut that feels very retro. I really don't like this one. It's just not my kind of thing. The saxophone soloing is pretty tasty, though.
Long Time Gone
This has a lot of a Motown kind of sound to it, but it works better. It has more energy. It feels a bit more AOR oriented. Bonnet's performance gets pretty impassioned at times.
Only One Woman
A Bonnet take on a Bee Gees penned song, this is slow moving and fairly effective. While the tempo is on the unhurried side, the tune has a lot of emotion packed into it.
Please Call Me
There is a lot of 80s music sound here. The song is solid, but not really a highlight.
A Change Is Gonna Come
Here we get a cover of a Sam Cooke song. This really works better than most of the rest on this CD. The soulful vibe is compelling. I dig the keyboard solo, too.
I'll Go Crazy
We're in James Brown territory here. This rendition is pretty cool. It has a similar sound to the rest of this fifth CD, but the energy and power really shines here. The keyboards stand tall on this arrangement. I love the saxophone on this cut, too.
I Go to Sleep
This song was originally done by The Kinks. Rather than sounding like that act, this has a rather jazzy vibe merged with the electronic styled music of the 80s. Bonnet's performance gets quite powerful at times. The sax brings a lot of magic to the mix, too.
Look Don't Touch
Adult contemporary music, jazz and more merge on this. It reminds me of some of the blue-eyed soul for which Michael McDonald is known.
Eyes of a Child
This was a song from the original Moody Blues, penned by Denny Laine when he was still in the band. The sound here is kind of cool. This is more of a modern rocker than a lot of the music here. In fact, this is one of my favorites on this CD of the set. It's still well set in a pop rock kind of vibe, but it's a bit less mainstream somehow. It has some meat on its bones.
Don't
A song originally recorded by Elvis Presley, this has a lot of old school country in the mix. It's a slow moving number that really feels like a modern take on that kind of old-fashioned sound. While it brings some variety, it's not really one of my favorites here.
What She Says, You Hear It Means
Now, this is more like it. While this still has some of the mainstream pop rock elements, overall, this one is really harder-edged and more modern.
Bonus Tracks:
               
Instrumental Demos
                   
Gone in a Minute

This instrumental version is a solid mainstream sounding tune. It's probably best described as "pop music based." That said, it is mellow rock at its core.

A Hole in My Soul
A metal guitar opens this. As the instrumental cut works out it feels a lot like Dire Straits to me. I like this one quite a bit.
Please Call Me
This has a real bouncy 80s music kind of vibe to it.
Greenwich Meantime
While I liked the version of this we heard earlier quite a bit, this doesn't really do it justice. Then again, it's a demo. It has its moments, particularly in terms of the guitar soloing.
CD6:
                       
Reel to Real: The Archives (1987-1992): Expanded Remaster
                    
Tonite I Fly (1987)

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

Reel to Real (1987)

Another killer metal stomper, I like this a lot. It's packed with meaty sounds and is just so cool.

The Dancer (1987)
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 (1989)
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 final CD.  The guitar solo on this is classy.
Long Time Gone (1989)
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 (1989)
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 (1989)
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 (1989)
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.
Rider (1989)
This is 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.
You Are Your Money
Screaming hot guitar brings this in, and the cut works out to a serious metal stomper. I'm not overly crazy about this tune, though. The chorus hooks work well with a power metal approach, but the verses don't seem to gel that well for me.
Dead Man Walking
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.
Glass Mountain
I love the guitar fills on this screaming hot metal stomper. It has a real power metal sound. There is an epic angle to the song, particularly in terms of the lyrical content.
Red Rum
Another scorching hot screamer, this has some incendiary guitar work on the extended instrumental section.
My Kingdom Come
Ominous tones are brought in by the keyboard textures that open this. The song works out to a balladic approach with piano and vocals at the heart of the arrangement. As that first vocal movement reaches a peak, the cut fires out to another potent metal arrangement. This definitely lands on the epic metal side of the equation. It seriously rocks out, too.
Mirror Lies
There is a little more mainstream hard rock in the mix on this number, but it's also decidedly heavy metal based. There is a cool, mellower section mid-track. This is a meaty stomper that's among my favorites of the whole set.
Unleash The Beast
A little rawer in terms of its metal fury, this is another powerhouse. It's in your face and screaming hot.
Hippie Heart, Gypsy Soul
Another powerhouse raw metal stomper, this is a great way to end the set in style.

 

 
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