It was the summer of 1984 and my friends and I were heading to Six Flags in Jackson, NJ to see Ted Nugent perform at their outdoor amphitheater. (Six Flags, Great Adventure, Jackson, NJ, 6/8/84) The band opening the show was relatively unknown at the time other than it featured former Rainbow vocalist Graham Bonnet. However, this band also had a young shredder guitarist by the name of Yngwie Malmsteen that we were vaguely familiar with from his former band Steeler. When Alcatrazz took the stage, the young Yngwie ruled the stage and stole the show from band leader Graham Bonnet. This was my introduction to Alcatrazz and Yngwie Malmsteen. Of course, finding their album became an essential that very next day.
Alcatrazz - Live Sentence (Polydor/Japan) 1984
1. "Too Young to Die,
Too Drunk to Live" (4:47)
"Live Sentence" was recorded in 1984 during the band's Japanese tour. When this album first came out some years ago I really liked it. I have since gone back and read many reviews, almost all of which are lukewarm at best. Perhaps it's nostalgia or the fact that I saw Alcatrazz on this tour, but I still really enjoy this disc. The live sound gives the "No Parole" material a slightly rawer and more heavy sound. There are a couple Rainbow classics included as well (Since You've Been Gone" & "All Night Long,") that 'ol Yngwie takes some artistic license with. "Night Games" was originally a track from Graham's solo album "Line Up". Also included is a live version of a song that would see release on Yngwie's first solo disc titled "Evil Eye". Overall, I wouldn't say that this was one of my all time favorite live platters, but it's still a darn good disc and showcases a young Yngwie who would soon splinter off and change heavy metal history. One minor complaint is the way the disc ends. After "All Night Long" ends the crowd noise begins to fade off but not before the drummer starts into the opening of Rainbow's "Lost in Hollywood, which of course is faded out. A bit of studio wizardry could have been used to get rid of those drum sounds so as not to leave the listener wondering why the song was left out.
Alcatrazz - Disturbing the Peace (Capitol/Japan) 1985
1. "God Blessed Video"
'Disturbing the Peace' was the first album release from Alcatrazz after the departure of Yngwie Malmsteen. Enter new shredder Steve Vai. Steve is a more than competent replacement for Yngwie, but in my opinion, has a very different charisma than Yngwie possessed. As such, the band sounds quite different. However, Bonnet's killer song-craft shines through and this album still rocks. If it's not as good as the classic debut 'No Parole from Rock n Roll,' then it's only a small step behind.
1. It's My Life (4:04)
2. Undercover (3:35)
3. That Ain' t Nothin' (3:47)
4. No Imagination (3:11)
5. Ohayo Tokyo (2:54)
6. Dangerous Games (3:21)
7. Blue Boar (3:09)
8. Only One Woman (3:37)
9. The Witchwood (3:55)
10. Double Man (4:23)
11. Night Of The Shooting Star (1:03)
"Dangerous Games" marks a definite departure in sound from "No Parole from Rock 'n Roll" and "Disturbing the Peace". After having guitar shredders like Yngwie Malmsteen and Steve Vai in the band, it must have been difficult for Graham Bonnet to figure out which move to take next. It is my opinion that Bonnet is one of the greatest vocalists in heavy rock and just about everything he has put his stamp on has been excellent. "Dangerous Game" is really the first sign of weakness, though not in his vocals. He still has a strong voice and knows how to write a super catchy vocal melody. His vocals on "Double Man"are easily some of the best on the album. He gives this particular song the classic Alcatrazz sound that is mostly missing from the rest album. A couple other good vocal tracks are the infectious chorus melody of "Blue Boar" and "Ohayo Tokyo".
Unfortunately the guitar work on this album can't even come close to that of the first two albums. In fact, even if guitarist Danny Johnson had the same chops as the former guitarist, his guitars are buried in an ultra-slick production that favors the drums and keyboards over the guitars. It's that mixture of fiery guitar work and Bonnet's vocals is what game Alcatrazz their unique vibe. That vibe is nearly absent from this album. The opening track is hard rock cover of the Animals classic "It's My Life", which is an odd number to open the album. This song and "Double Man" are really the only songs in which the guitar are allowed to drive the song. The album also suffers from an over abundance of ballads. "Only One Woman" is one of them and is a cover of an old 1968 "Marbles" song, which was also fronted by a young Graham Bonnet. (Check YouTube for a video of the original, it's quite entertaining.) Overall, "Dangerous Games" has a few decent tracks, but the album as a whole doesn't stand up to the previous studio records.
The 2011 CD reissue of "Dangerous Games" features nine live tracks recorded in 1984 with Yngwie on guitar.
Released nearly three decades after it was recorded, this live recording was traded by Yngwie and Alcatrazz fans as a bootleg for years. However, no bootleg I have heard sounds as good as this. This was a band that was young and hungry, but also quite volatile. Of course Alcatrazz circa 1983 featured consummate vocalist Graham Bonnet as well the Swedish shredder known as Yngwie J. Malmsteen. Of course Malmsteen became a heavy metal icon in the future, but here he was still relatively unknown and working his way up the latter of success. Unfortunately this line-up only lasted long enough to produce one legendary album titled "No Parole from Rock 'n Roll", which makes up the majority of the tracks from this live album. Being that the band already released an official live album titled "Live Sentence", this album might seem like overkill. However, "Live '83" features a good set list including several tracks that were not featured on "Live Sentence" including "Jet to Jet" and "Suffer Me". It is quite awesome hearing Yngwie take on Michael Schenker's "Desert Song" from MSG's "Assault Attack" album. "Evil Eye" is the Yngwie composed instrumental that would also see a studio release on his first "Rising Force" release. Overall, a stellar live album from this classic, short-lived line-up of Alcatrazz.