MARK TAYLOR'S BIG CITY NIGHTS
GRAHAM BONNET LINE-UP OF EARLY SOLO ALBUMS
These days people associate the big broad voice of Graham Bonnet with the heavy rock success he enjoyed with the chart topping Rainbow, the brief stint in Michael Schenker Group plus his own Alcatrazz.
But the Skegness born Bonnet's career started off in 1968 with the pop duo The Marbles who released four singles, three of which were written by The Bee Gees' Gibbs brothers including the Top 5 UK hit 'Only One Woman'.
When The Marbles folded little was heard of publicly from Graham Bonnet who was by now making a healthy living using his voice on TV commercials. In 1972-73 he made a few singles which failed to make any waves but a year later Bonnet made what was originally intended to be his debut album.
Article continues below...
'Back Row In The Stalls' (HNE Recordings)
Recorded in 1974 but never released at the time, 'Back Row In The Stalls' finally sees the light of day.
Bonnet was 26-years=old when he made this album for DJM. Full of his own compositions, Bonnet also played the guitar and bass on this album. Rick Wakeman guests on one track but it seems neither party can remember which one, whilst most of the keyboards were supplied by Mike Moran, who in 1977 came second in the Eurovision Song Contest with 'Rock Bottom', his duet with Lynsey de Paul.
'Back Row In The Stalls' is far removed from Rainbow's 'Down To Earth' but is a fascinating insight into the early career of Graham Bonnet. A mixed bag of different flavours from the country rock opener of 'Here Comes The Rain', the psychedelic Beatles influence on the quirky 'What's This 'Ere Then', the rag-time honky tonk of 'Private Eye' and the fifties doo-wop feel of 'Saturday's Over' whilst the title track 'Back Row In The Stalls' has all the campness of Freddie Mercury putting on the Ritz.
The reason why this album was shelved at the time was because five of its tracks ended up on the soundtrack to the film 'Three For All' under the name of Billy Beethoven, the name of the band who star in the film which featured a cameo appearance from Graham Bonnet along with his new wife Adrienne Posta.
A must own album for any Bonnet devotee. It would have interesting to see how his career would have panned out if this album did get released back in 74 because he could have easily followed in the footsteps of Rod Stewart with his earthy rootsy and smoochy songs.
'Graham Bonnet'/'No Bad Habits' (HNE Recordings)
Following a messy divorce it would take three years before Graham would release his first official debut album, re-issued here in a double package along with 'No Bad Babits' from 1978.
The eponymous "debut" would feature Micky Moody on guitar plus many covers as Bonnet admits: "My own songs weren't considered good enough".
The leading single, 'It's All Over Now, Baby Blue', is a Dylan cover done in the style of Rod Stewart which like the album failed to ignite in the UK but proved to be very popular in Australia.
The second track, a cover of The Shirelles 'Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow', was suggested by producer Pip Williams and would prove to be a pivotal choice as a year later Roger Glover would be producing Micky Moody when he heard the song and took the album to Ritchie Blackmore. This eventually landed Graham Bonnet the audition with Rainbow.
Consequently 'Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow' would often be performed as an encore with Rainbow but we're getting far too ahead of ourselves here.
Bonnet's R&B influences are all over this album which includes an excellent version of Al Green's 'Tired Of Being Alone'. 'It Ain't Easy' was originally a steel blues number but rearranged here to breeze along like Lynyrd Skynyrd at their finest.
Graham Bonnet used Pip Williams again for his next album, 'No Bad Habits', which would feature Strapps drummer Mick Underwood who had worked with Ian Gillan and Roger Glover in Episode Six and would again work with the Deep Purple vocalist in his solo career in Gillan (see how the connections are building here).
'No Bad Habits' would start with another Bob Dylan number in 'I'll Be Your Baby Tonight' and his version would later be copied more successfully by Robert Palmer. But it was another Gibbs brothers penned number which would catapult Graham Bonnet to the top of the Australian single charts with the disco vibe of 'Warm Ride', a track that was originally a left over from the 'Saturday Night Fever' album and it would see Bonnet dancing all the way to the bank as the B-Side, '10/12 Observation', was written by himself and is available here as a bonus track.
Three tracks here are written by John Kongos, better known for writing 'He's Gonna Step On You Again'. Pick of his bunch is the uniting 'Won't You Join Me' which once again expresses the diversity of Bonnet's voice. Status Quo fans will take pleasure in hearing 'Givin' Up My Worryin' which was written by Francis Rossi and his long term writing partner Bernie Frost.
A year later Graham Bonnet would be riding the airwaves with Rainbow on the smash hit songs 'Since You've Been Gone' and 'All Night Long' from the powerful 'Down To Earth' album.
'Line-Up' (HNE Recordings)
Another year later and Graham had walked away from Ritchie Blackmore, despite the fact they had just headlined the first ever Monsters Of Rock show at Castle Donington. At least Bonnet was rock 'n roll for being his own man.
'Line-Up' was so called for the strong stellar group of musicians involved in the making of this post-Rainbow album which cheekily included the colours of the rainbow in the album artwork.
It is indeed a most remarkable line-up Bonnet assembled at different times in the making of this album. All of the players were at the top of the game with their respective bands nad included Whitesnake members Micky Moody, Neil Murray and Jon Lord, Quo's Francis Rossi, Rick Parfitt and Andy Bown, Cozy Powell, Russ Ballard and some of the top session musicians available at the time.
The single 'Night Games' followed his work with Rainbow into the top ten of the UK charts, a track with a disco underbelly which appealed to Bonnet.
Russ Ballard, who had penned 'Since You've Been Gone', brought two songs to the table, the hard drive of 'S.O.S' and 'Liar' which he originally recorded with Argent but 'I'm A Lover' sees Bonnet express himself best on this delightful ballad.
'That's The Way That It Is' is a solid commercial number which was released as a single but failed to chart and was later covered by Uriah Heep.
The Quo connections continued with Bob Young co-writing with Micky Moody on three numbers and Bonnet sticks with his soul roots on a version of Spector's 'Be My Baby'. A year after this release Graham Bonnet would be providing the vocals for another guitar supremo Michael Schenker on the 'Assault Attack' album.
These re-issues all come with bonus tracks, some previously unreleased or that are appearing on CD for the very first time.
They provide the perfect book ends for the 'Down To Earth' album and any lovers of Graham Bonnet will find plenty of treasures amongst these four albums.