Alcatrazz – Official Bootleg Box Set Vol 2 (1983-1984)
Cherry Red Records
Release Date: 26.08.22
Running Time: 05:26:00
Review by Dark Juan
Greetings. Dark Juan here, and this review might be quite a lengthy one. I’m just warning you now. I’m out of booze, you see, and I have been drinking rather a lot of coffee and I am severely over-caffeinated. Mrs Dark Juan finds this either tremendously amusing (once, when we were resident in Newcastle Emlyn, she dumped a double espresso into a mocha I had bought without me knowing, “for a laugh”. She wasn’t laughing when I was still babbling absolute bullshit at a mile a minute an hour later and twitching while my eyes blinked independently of each other) or REALLY FUCKING ANNOYING which is when she launches stuff at my poor unprotected head and tells me that she’s leaving me and I won’t have visitation with Hodgson Biological-Warfare and the Dread Lord, Igor Egbert Bryan Clown-Shoe Cleavage-Hoover [these are Dark Juan’s dogs, for those not tripping their tits off on caffeine – ED]. However, I don’t believe her but having gibbered at her for a good forty minutes of time about the specifications of the USS Enterprise-D (bear in mind this is a starship that is entirely fictional. To be fair, my old boss at Foel Farm where I used to work recently admitted to me that they used to double up the coffee in my cup at work because it was apparently endlessly amusing to the whole team to listen to me pontificate) she has told me to fuck off and retired to her craft eyrie and I have decided to put the trembling and hyperspeed thought to good use and write about some music. It is a struggle to not run off at tangents right now…
In a staggering display of “go big or go home” I have seated myself in front of the Doom Pooter and am listening to a FIVE CD box set of bootleg live recordings from Alcatrazz, lovingly re-mastered and brought to us by Cherry Red Records. Recorded (it sounds like) from the audience’s perspective because they are bootlegs, the sound quality of these compact discs ranges from the actually reasonably good to the frankly downright shitty, for obvious reasons. Not many folk are going to get away with arriving at a venue and security not noticing the portable 16-track and tapes you have brought with you. So, if you’re expecting perfect sound, forget it. You won’t be getting it. What you do get is a set of warts-and-all recordings from a time when two massively large egos appeared in the same band and magic happened until it all inevitably imploded in a very messy fashion…
In case you are not aware, dear reader, Graham Bonnet was the singer for Alcatrazz. My admiration and adoration of Metal’s most famous accountant’s haircut and impenetrable sunglasses should be well known by now considering the amount of frothing I do about him, and Dark Juan considers him the consummate Metal frontman, without all the pseudo-macho posturing that comes with it normally. Graham Bonnet is one of the greatest singers of all time and worthy of a spot in the canon of Metal greatness equal to or superior to RJD, Dickinson, Halford and the like. And if you don’t agree you’re fucking wrong and we will be having a good old-fashioned straightener on the cobbles outside.
To fill you in briefly – Alcatrazz released the seminal debut album “No Parole From Rock N Roll” in 1983, featuring Yngwie Malmsteen on guitar and during the tour in 1983-1984 to support this, tensions arose between Bonnet and Malmsteen – who eventually quit after an altercation on stage. Malmsteen claimed this was because Bonnet had grown fed up with his guitar playing overshadowing the vocal performance of Bonnet. Malmsteen was replaced by an even more virtuoso, less classically influenced guitar player in Steve Vai, his coming into the band supposedly firmly resisted by Bonnet. Anyway, the band imploded in 1987 when Vai left after receiving an offer he couldn’t refuse to join David Lee Roth’s band.
Disc one records the gig performed in Huntington Beach, California at the Golden Bear in December 1983 and it’s a spectacularly messy affair. The rest of the band appear to have decided they are going to terrorise the singer by playing at warp speed and the man himself sometimes struggles to keep up. This could be due to the influence of a previously unknown young Swedish guitarist named Yngwie Malmsteen being in the band and being something of a virtuoso player. The band all seem in good form, but the voice of Graham Bonnet is rough as a bird’s arse for the first few songs until it warms up. However, the trademark soloing of Malmsteen is already on display and rather a lot of the songs feature Malmsteen flailing wildly away from the basic structure of the songs. ‘Evil Eye’ (being a Malmsteen composition for the guitar) is followed by the Swedish string-slinger indulging in six minutes of soloing, to the delight of the crowd and to my fatigue.
As impressive a player as he is, there are only so many arpeggios you can hear before you get bored. The sound quality of this recording is dodgy at best, especially with the bastard who keeps shouting “S.O.S” in my right ear, but it nevertheless has considerable charm, and hearing little snippets of conversation in the crowd during the gaps between songs (“Graham Bonnet’s back, baby”) makes it an intimate listen and there are a number of Rainbow songs to keep the faithful interested (‘Since You Been Gone’, ‘All Night Long’ and ‘Lost In Hollywood’) as well as a cover of MSG’s ‘Desert Song’. On ‘All Night Long’ there’s a fun little segment with Malmsteen and Bonnet trading licks with voice and guitar before a bit of audience participation knackers the throats of the masses and reminds us just how engaging a frontman Bonnet is. Did I mention how much I love Graham Bonnet?
CD 2 is a recording of Alcatrazz when they hit Osaka in Japan in January 1984. Alcatrazz became massive in Japan after ‘Hiroshima Mon Amour’ became a big hit there for the band. Preceding the actual appearance of the band is a whacked out Japanese-language intro of ‘Night Games’ before Alcatrazz crash into ‘Incubus’, with its glorious wailing guitar line, and very polite applause and clapping along from the Japanese audience. One imagines the crowd banter will be rather less entertaining than CD1 because Dark Juan can’t fucking understand a single word of Japanese. The sound quality of this CD is extremely echoey with lots of dropping out on the left-hand side, but it’s eminently listenable and surprisingly rich for a bootleg recording.
The first obvious thing to notice with this show is that Graham Bonnet has calmed down a bit and isn’t forcing his performance as much as he was on the first CD at Huntington Beach and Malmsteen’s guitar work has been lubricated with further fluidity, as he has become increasingly familiar with the material he’s playing. It appears that keyboardist Jimmy Waldo had been at the amphetamine, such is the speed and focus of his performance during this gig. The Japanese crowd are incredibly respectful of the band and this makes for an unusual listening experience as they bloody well shut up during the songs, and ‘Hiroshima Mon Amour’ is particularly well received. I enjoyed it particularly because no-one was shouting “S.O.S” every fifteen fucking seconds in my right ear this time.
‘Night Games’ from Bonnet’s solo offerings is played here, with a really martial Metal arrangement which sounds significantly different from the original, with the crowd dutifully singing back at Graham, who speeds through the song before returning to the Alcatrazz- written ‘Big Foot’. The band as a whole (composed of Bonnet and Malmsteen, with Jimmy Waldo on the keyboards, Iron Butterfly’s Jan Uvena playing drums and Gary Shea on bass) sound composed, professional and focused on CD2, whereas on CD1 they were messy and appeared more interested in having fun. Highlights of this Japanese performance were ‘Kree Nakoorie’, ‘Island In The Sun’ and Yngwie tearing his Strat a new arsehole during his solo spot. The main downside to this performance being that Bonnet clearly has no interest in singing ‘Since You Been Gone’ this time even though it’s a crowd pleaser and phones his performance in in a big way, electing to just bark the song out even though the rest of the band seem quite committed to it.
It just occurred to me that the main melody to ‘Dark All Day’ by Gunship is heavily influenced by the keyboard melody of ‘Kree Nakoorie’. Just shows you what an influence old-school Metal can still have, I guess.
The third CD in this extensive live retrospective was recorded at Graham Central Station in Albuquerque in New Mexico on 19th February 1984. Opening this time with ‘Too Young To Die… Too Drunk To Live’ the band sound tighter than an entire armada of ducks’ arses and Graham Bonnet is absolutely on point vocally. This recording is also much easier to listen to due to the fact that it was recorded on something that didn’t sound like it had been created in an emergency out of magnets, chewing gum and light bulbs, and powered by a potato. The bass of Gary Shea is particularly forward on this performance, which is a good thing as he is a fine player and it’s nice to not have him overpowered by Malmsteen widdling all over the fucking place. There’s still the odd drop out but again we are reminded that these are a collection of bootleg recordings.
The entire vibe is a much more fluid affair than the previous two performances I have listened to, with the whole band appearing to relax into their performance and add a fun-loving, chilled vibe to the whole thing – ‘Island In The Sun’ is a particularly fine live version of the song at this gig in Albuquerque with the backing vocals also standing out in a kind of Beach Boysy way. Even the version of ‘Suffer Me’, which is a terrible power ballad even on the studio recording (this is simply because Dark Juan hates power ballads more than Jacob Rees-Mogg and rampant capitalism combined, although his sister Annunziata is a bit of all right) is clean and listenable. Malmsteen appears to have forgotten he’s in a band at this point and goes fucking insane with the soloing on several songs yet somehow manages to not detract from the flow and groove of the arrangements. There’s also a pretty stonking version of Malmsteen’s instrumental (emphasis on the mental) piece ‘Evil Eye’ (based on Johann Krieger’s ‘Bourree’, dontcha know, classical fans? And subsequently released on his “Rising Force” album. Wink wink) that’s just spectacular to hear in a live setting and makes this jaded old fucker wish he had been there to witness the famously frequently furious fleet-fingered Scandinavian frenetically flay the fretboard with his flashing fingertips (of doom). God, I love alliteration. Bonus points are awarded for an off-the-cuff performance of Eddie Cochran’s ‘Something Else’, which I can imagine Yngwie fucking hating to play. He still managed to get a mixolydian scale in the solo though. Easily the best of the three gigs preserved for posterity so far in this collection.
CD 4 is next up, and this was recorded at the famous Agora Ballroom in Cleveland, Ohio on 23rd May 1984. Whatever this was recorded on and by who indicates that they enjoyed percussion and bottom end more than guitar work or vocals, as it is a super-soupy sound with all the bass there has ever been and a bit more for good measure, yet surprisingly you can hear the cymbals and drums extremely clearly throughout and this does give us the opportunity to enjoy the excellent tubthumping of Jan Uvena. The same goes for Jimmy Waldo’s keyboards – they are very far forward in the sound and it makes it very difficult to hear Yngwie Malmsteen guitar work. Graham Bonnet’s delivery in these old recordings shows just how far he has come and how accomplished he is as a frontman and live performer these days as he comes across as a bit screechy on ‘Jet To Jet’ here.
When ‘Night Games’ comes around, it’s apparent that we have moved to another person in the crowd recording on a device they have put together themselves from random bits from Maplins and Radio Shack and the local greengrocers, as Graham Bonnet’s vocals hide behind ridiculous amounts of echo and reverb and occasionally peek out before vanishing entirely behind the backing vocals. It’s a shame because it’s a really rousing rendition of Dark Juan’s favourite Graham Bonnet song and Mrs Dark Juan gave me the Paddington Hard Stare because I had started singing and dancing in the lounge and upset the sleeping dogs. So I sat down again. Our recordist also appears to be standing an inch away from Jimmy Waldo as well as I can hear every single keyboard flourish. It makes ‘Island In The Sun’ sound like it should be the title track for a TV series about some kind of customised combat vehicle crewed by soldiers of fortune, complete with explosions and hidden ramps for dramatic stunt jumps, circa 1986.
There’s also a fucking annoying master of ceremonies or presenter who insists on talking at stages throughout the performance. He needs to piss right off back into the hole he came out of. The man clearly knows fuck all about Metal or Alcatrazz and Dark Juan pictures a prick in a suit mugging desperately at some camera crew who are equally out of their depth. Arsehole.
Curiously, the Radio Shack enthusiast who recorded his bootleg an inch away from Jimmy Waldo managed to do something extraordinary and somehow enhance the MSG tune ‘Desert Song’ by standing where he did and inadvertently give the song a more gothic and mysterious feel than normal, because the keyboards lead the song instead of the guitar. This was a complete surprise. After a stonking version of ‘Kree Nakoorie’, Malmsteen gets let off his leash and proceeds to delight all the shredheads in the audience with an instrumental solo entitled ‘Coming Bach’ which is unsurprisingly based on the compositions of a little-known composer called Johann Sebastian Bach. And, equally unsurprisingly, it’s rather good indeed if you like egregiously talented Neoclassical guitarists.
The last CD in this extensive archive of historically important and rare tracks was recorded on 8th June 1984 at Six Flags Great Adventure in Jackson, New Jersey which sounds like it was held outside, and our amateur recordist hid his equipment down a fucking Pringles tube and then concealed that item down his trousers, scaring any woman within a four-hundred-yard radius and not a few of the gentlemen there also.
‘Night Games’ has a curiously curtailed performance by Graham on it, not soaring with his usual effortless grace – perhaps a slightly dodgy throat as he does sound curiously raw at this concert. The rest of the band are totally on point though, playing with precision to a man. Yngwie gets to have a massive guitar wanking session this time as well and proceeds to show the generally agog crowd just how many orgasmic arpeggios you can fit into a few minutes. Even with a bunch of Neanderthals shouting “Yngwie!” at him as if he would be paying attention to them mid-arpeggio. Many of the crowd went home and just binned their guitars that day, thinking it was now a pointless endeavour. Dark Juan would have. This is why Dark Juan now favours desecrating religious altars and the religious and alcoholism as hobbies.
This short seven song set ends with the Rainbow classic ‘Since You Been Gone’ after a few moments of increasingly desperate filling as someone’s equipment fucks itself viciously up the arse. As bonus items on this last CD there is an interview which was originally released as a B-side on the original 12-inch vinyl promo release of ‘Island In The Sun’ and three instrumental demos. The interview is interesting and engaging but also very much a product of its time with some rather stilted questioning from the interviewer, but it gives the band a human quality that some interviews just don’t have. There’s also a little vignette recorded by Graham Bonnet as a PSA about the dangers of drink driving.
So, after many hours of writing and listening, I have come to the end of this review and hopefully you are still here with me because it has been going on for quite some time and Mrs Dark Juan and the dogs have all left me for pastures new because I have not been giving them any attention and I have literally spent an entire day on this review for your edification, dear friends.
It has to be said, however, that this box set will only ever be of interest to niche markets – live music aficionados and Alcatrazz / Yngwie / Graham Bonnet completists. That said, I’ve enjoyed the fuck out of every gig recorded in here, so…
The Patented Dark Juan Blood Splat Rating System awards this 5-CD box set from Cherry Red Records the full 10/10 for the following reasons:
1. Graham fucking Bonnet. My own personal Heavy Metal hierophant.
2. Yngwie fucking Malmsteen.
3. Five live performances never before put together plus other rarities.
4. GRAHAM FUCKING BONNET!
5. Classic songs from a classic band.
6. Sheer value for money. It’s a fucking humungous package for your wonga. Kind of like me 😉
7. It’s Alcatrazz.
Thank you. I’m going to lie down in a darkened room before I attempt the 14-CD Van Der Graaf Generator box set upcoming on my review list. Good night. God, I wish I had a beer.
Disc One – Huntington Beach, California: 21st December 1983 (Running time – 62:28)
02. Too Young To Die…Too Drunk To Live
03. Hiroshima Mon Amour
04. Desert Song
05. Kree Nakoorie
06. Island In The Sun
07. Big Foot
08. Evil Eye
09. Guitar Solo
10. Since You Been Gone
11. Jet To Jet
12. All Night Long
13. Lost In Hollywood
Disc Two – Osaka, Japan: 24th January 1984 (Running time – 69:44)
01. Night Games Intro
03. Too Young To Die…To Drunk To Live
04. Hiroshima Mon Amour
05. Desert Song
06. Night Games
07. Big Foot
08. Island In The Sun
09. Kree Nakoorie
10. Guitar Solo
11. Since You Been Gone
12. Suffer Me
13. Jet To Jet
14. Evil Eye
15. Lost In Hollywood
16. All Night Long
Disc Three – Albuquerque, New Mexico: 19th February 1984 (Running time – 64:55)
01. Too Young To Die… Too Drunk To Live
02. Hiroshima Mon Amour
03. Big Foot
04. Island In The Sun
05. Kree Nakoorie
06. Since You Been Gone
07. Suffer Me
08. Desert Song
09. Jet To Jet
10. Evil Eye
11. All Night Long
12. Lost In Hollywood
13. Something Else
Disc Four – Agora Ballroom, Cleveland, Ohio: 23rd May 1984 (Running time – 55:04)
02. Too Young To Die…Too Drunk To Live
03. Jet To Jet
04. Night Games
05. Island In The Sun
06. Desert Song
07. Kree Nakoorie
08. Guitar Solo: Coming Bach
09. Band Introduction
10. Since You Been Gone
11. Black Star Intro-Suffer Me
12. Hiroshima Mon Amour
13. Lost In Hollywood
Disc Five – Jackson, New Jersey: 8th June 1984 (Running time – 64:29)
01. Too Drunk To Live…Too Young To Die
02. Island In The Sun
03. Hiroshima Mon Amour
04. Night Games
05. Kree Nakoorie
06. Guitar Solo
07. Since You Been Gone
08. Interview 1983 (B-Side Of ‘Island In The Sun’ Promo 12inch)
09. PSA – Against Drunk Driving
10. Instrumental 1 (Take 1 Jimmy And Danny Demo)
11. Instrumental 1 (Take 2 Jimmy And Danny Demo)
12. Instrumental 2 (Jimmy And Danny Demo)
Graham Bonnet – Vocals
Yngwie J. Malmsteen – Guitars
Jan Uvena – Drums
Gary Shea – Bass
Jimmy Waldo – Keyboards
Disclaimer: This review is solely the property of Dark Juan and Ever Metal. It is strictly forbidden to copy any part of this review, unless you have the strict permission of both parties. Failure to adhere to this will be treated as plagiarism and will be reported to the relevant authorities.