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metal talk
30th August 2017

johnny main
Words: Johnny Main

graham bonnet

Skegness' finest singer Graham Bonnet is back and he's on top form at the moment no doubt buoyed by the success of his most recent album, 2016s 'The Book' (reviewed by MetalTalk here.

I saw Bonnet a few years ago in Glasgow and he was struggling a bit but his recent shows, including last year's Hard Rock Hell, restored my faith in this incredible and often under-rated musician.

Bonnet's career hasn't always seen him in the limelight but he's worked hard and his discography shows that he's been involved with some of the biggest names in rock music from Roger Glover, Cozy Powell and Ritchie Blackmore in Rainbow to Jon Lord, Russ Ballard, Michael Schenker, Steve Vai, Yngwie Malmsteen and even Francis Rossi and Rick Parfitt from (the mighty) Status Quo.

'The Book' was a celebration of his past works and 'Live... Here Comes The Night' simply takes the highlights of his career so far from a performance at the 2016 Frontiers Rock Festival held at the Live Club, Trezzo sull'Adda in Italy in April 2016.

The complete performance is included on both a CD and DVD/BluRay in what is a simply astounding performance from beginning to end. The two disc set serves not only as a greatest hits of Bonnet's career so far, but also to show what an incredible live preformer he still is.

Of course, the Rainbow tracks, from 1979s Bonnet fronted 'Down To Earth' album, are the most interesting given that Ritchie Blackmore has recently gone back out on tour under the Rainbow banner and here Bonnet gives the songs the treatment that Blackmore should have.

A hard edge blast from the past, the Graham Bonnet Band pile on the power and the tempo and it's fast and frantic. 'All Night Long' sounds especially good with the classic guitar riff played with aggression by Joey Tafolla while drummer Mark Benquechea punches out the solid beat as though his life depends on it.

Bonnet's work with Michael Schenker is equally important and he’s chosen a clutch of tracks from the 1982 album, 'Assault Attack', including 'Desert Song' and, of course, the title track. Like the Rainbow tracks, these are heavy rock renditions of well-known classic tracks but the band doesn't put a foot wrong in these scintillating versions.

'Night Games' has Benquechea laying down the tempo which is remarkably faster than the original studio version but it's a harder edged version of the much loved classic. Tafolla shows his skill on guitar throughout and occasionally Bonnet's voice reaches its upper limit. "Maybe it's something I've been smoking!" he remarks as if to throw it off, but that's a small complaint overall.

You only have to listen to the revitalised versions of the Alcatraz numbers from 1983s 'No Parole From Rock N' Roll' like 'Suffer Me' which shows Bonnet once again giving everything to his performance as his vocals take centre stage and the fact he struggles a bit shows that this guy gives one hundred percent to everything.

In contrast the keyboardy sound of 'Island In The Sun', courtesy of Jimmy Waldo, shows that it's not all gratuitous guitar solos here and the individual band members are allowed to shine throughout the album.

From 'The Book' and this album, it's clear that Bonnet is not even thinking of retiring and these older tracks are songs that are should be heard but aren't played often enough either on stage or on the numerous Rock Radio stations, so it's good to see them getting an airing here and no doubt, the set for his upcoming shows will be broadly similar, so if you see him playing near you then I'd recommend that you don't think twice and get out and see this genuine rock legend.

'Frontiers Rock Festival 2016 – Live... Here Comes The Night' tracklist:
Eyes Of The World
All Night Long
Stand In Line
God Blessed Video
Will You Be Home Tonight
Jet To Jet
Night Games
Suffer Me
Desert Song
Island In The Sun
Since You Been Gone
Assault Attack
Lost In Hollywood

The Graham Bonnet Band are:
Graham Bonnet – Vocals
Joey Tafolla – Guitar
Beth-Ami Heavenstone – Bass Guitar
Jimmy Waldo – Keyboards
Mark Benquechea – Drums

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graham bonnet

Blind Guardian: 'Live Beyond The Spheres'
Out Now (Nuclear Blast)

Blind Guardian, those progressive German power Metal pioneers, have released a new 3-CD package entitled 'Live Beyond The Spheres', their third live album and following on from the release of the hugely successful 2015 studio album, 'Beyond The Red Mirror'. Recorded at several venues on their 'Beyond The Red Mirror' European tour, the album showcases material from their latest studio album as well as old classics and a number of tracks that are played very rarely during live shows.

Spread over three CDs or four vinyl albums, the 'Live Beyond The Spheres' tracklist serves to showcase the very best of the Blind Guardian live experience and, as we all know, the band are known as perfectionists, so much so that, as frontman Hansi Kürsch explained:

"Every band-member has checked each and every song and concert of those thirty shows that were recorded again and again, and we then had to decide between those tracks which would have been the most impressive one. This was a nearly endless task!"

As far as new songs go, things kick off with the epic 'The Ninth Wave' which is the only track from 2015s 'Beyond The Mirror' and serves to set the listener up for an epic two-and-a-half hour journey through the band's career. Guardian are on top form and it's a masterclass in ability and showmanship that you expect from Blind Guardian, and it's difficult to believe it's not from all the same gig as the quality of the performances shines through time and again.

Likewise, the audience are audible in the mix, especially during 'Nightfall', featured on their 1998 album 'Nightfall In Middle-Earth', and the intro to 'Fly', from 2006s 'A Twist In The Myth' album, as Hansi jokes with the audience.

If you’re looking for rarer cuts from the band's back catalogue, then you don't have to look much further than 'Prophecies' (from 'Beyond The Mirror') which is driven along by André Olbrich's guitar and 'Wheel Of Time', which was originally recorded for the 2010 effort, 'At The Edge Of Time', which seems to be a popular number with the fans given the roar of approval as the song kicks off.

Also, let's not forget 'And The Story Ends', from 1995s 'Imaginations From The Other Side', which has the Dusseldorf audience clapping along to drummer Frederik Ehmke pounding rythmns.

Kürsch has to be one of the best Power Metal vocalists in the world while Olbrich doesn't put a foot wrong through the whole album. Highlights must include the epic 'Sacred Worlds', another track from 'At The Edge Of Time', with its long introduction complete with orchestrations before the crunchy guitar kicks in before the tempo comes right down with the first verse – never an easy thing to do live and it wouldn't be a fair representation of the Blind Guradian live experience without including 'The Bard's Song - In The Forest', 'Valhalla' and 'Mirror Mirror', the latter of which closes the set off.

Whether you're just discovering Blind Guardian or have been a fan of the band since their early days, then then this album is a must-have release as it serves not only as a greatest hits with a few special number thrown in but a fantastic live document of the band now.

'Live Beyond The Spheres' tracklist:
The Ninth Wave
Banish From Sanctuary
The Last Candle
And Then There Was Silence
The Lord Of The Rings
Bright Eyes
Lost In The Twilight Hall
Imaginations From The Other Side
Into The Storm
Twilight Of The Gods
A Past And Future Secret
And The Story Ends
Sacred Worlds
The Bard's Song (In The Forest)
Wheel Of Time
Mirror Mirror

Blind Guardian are:
Hansi Kürsch – Vocals
André Olbrich – Guitar/Backing Vocals
Marcus Siepen – Guitar/ Backing Vocals
Frederik Ehmke – Drums
Barend Courbois - Bass Guitar

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