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The Book - The Graham Bonnet Band

Anyone familiar with Graham Bonnet, whether it's through his work with Alcatrazz, Rainbow, The Michael Schenker Group or Impellitteri, knows what kind of power and raw urgency the man can harness. I can't think of a vocalist that shapes a band's sound as much as Graham Bonnet. Yes, he has a distinctive sound and tone, but when he steps in front of a group of musicians it's his style that dominates. Ritchie Blackmore had a certain sound with Ronnie James Dio, but when Bonnet stepped in front of that well established group it transformed to suit his style, not only as a vocalist but also as a songwriter. It happened with a well established Michael Schenker Group, too. You can listen to those bands without the vocal track and tell that the songs are meant for Graham Bonnet. That's unusual.

With Bonnet fronting a group that he assembled from the ground up, aptly named The Graham Bonnet Band, we get his same brand of hard rock songs with power, range, and harmony. Someone said to Bonnet that this should've been the third Alcatrazz album, and he saw that as an accurate assessment of the album's sound. It is definitely an album that sounds like it is taken from that era, but if it was the third Alcatrazz album it would be their strongest work. I find this to be the strongest and most complete set of songs that Bonnet has been involved with. I think the Assault Attack album that he did with MSG is one of the best albums of the 80's, if not one of the best of all time. The Book has a similar sound and is of comparable caliber to that classic outing. 

Backed by a band of top notch musicians once again, Bonnet shines like the diamond he was in his early years. He writes challenging high end vocal passages into these songs because he can. If he's lost anything vocally over the past forty years there's definitely no evidence of it here. Highs and lows are sharp and clean and delivered with power and passion, just as you might expect. It's really no wonder how Bonnet continually ends up surrounded by first class talent - he's the definition of first class himself.

Imagine being Graham Bonnet's guitar player. Just let the idea of that daunting task sink in a little bit. Step up to the plate and fill the shoes of the men that came before you - Ritchie Blackmore, Michael Schenker, Yngwie Malmsteen, Steve Vai, Chris Impellitteri. Only the most confident player would even think about such a thing. Enter Conrado Pesinato.
I really think Pesinato has the most difficult job on this record. People expect a certain class of guitar player upon seeing Graham Bonnet's name attached to something. We might not expect another Blackmore or Malmsteen but we do expect something special, and Pesinato is just that. You'll hear some simple but sharp riffing, and you'll hear some complex runs that would rival the best of his predecessors, but most importantly you'll hear him play inside the song. He never tries too hard. He never steps over the boundaries of the song. He hasn't set out to prove himself as one of the greatest the world has ever seen, he just plays what he feels is best for each song. He couldn't have done it any better, either. Bravo!
Ex-Alcatrazz bandmate Jimmy Waldo plays keys on the album, and the chemistry and dynamic continues right where it left off in Alcatrazz. This whole fortress of heavy rock is built upon the sturdy rhythm section of bassist Beth-Ami Heavenstone and drummer Mark Zonder. You need a solid, bombastic rhythm section to hold Bonnet and Pesinato up, and Zonder and Heavenstone couldn't be more effective. 

As we know, you can have the best musicians known to mankind and still have an inferior outing. It's really about songwriting. How many times have you heard bad songs performed by great players? I know, too many times. Well have no fear, these songs are perfectly written for Bonnet's voice and style. One of the first things you might notice are the brilliant harmonies throughout each of these songs. Graham Bonnet songs usually have big choruses and beautifully layered harmonies, and these songs are a perfect example of that. Songs like "California Air," "Rider," and especially "Everybody Has To Go There" are clinics when it comes to harmony vocals. The harmonies fill out these songs and are an instrument unto themselves. 

All these songs are great. When I listen to a record I try to think of ways it could be better, or try to identify the songs that I'd rather not see in the set. With this record, I don't see any songs that I would remove. Each of these songs is special and the removal of any of them would damage the flow and feel of this album as a whole. I really don't know what I would do to make this record any better, other than play it a little bit louder.


Marbles, Michael, Malmsteen, and a Memoir: The Graham Bonnet Interview

I came to truly familiarize myself with Graham Bonnet through The Michael Schenker Group album, Assault Attack. Of course, I had heard the Rainbow single "Since You Been Gone" a million times by then, but I never felt an attachment to that song's singer like I did with Assault Attack. Bonnet really spoke to me through the MSG album, and my affection for his distinctive style grew with each listen.

Fast forward more than 30 years down the road and here I am speaking with the voice that made up so much of my life's soundtrack.  It was a discussion that lasted about 30 minutes, and we discussed just about every facet of his storied career, from his beginnings as part of The Marbles to his current Graham Bonnet Band album, The Book
As you will hear, Graham Bonnet is intelligent and poised, and one of the most comfortable and charming people in the business. His candor and sincerity shines through in this clip almost as much as my nervous idol worship.

Talking with Graham Bonnet about Ritchie Blackmore and Rainbow, his tensions with a teenaged Yngwie Malmsteen, and a new band that he considers family was truly a dream come true. I hope you enjoy this time with the legendary Graham Bonnet as much as I did. 


0-1:50   This latest album, The Book, sounds similar to the work you’ve done in the past with Michael Schenker and Alcatrazz. Was that what you were going for with this record?

1:51-3:39    Your voice sounds almost exactly like it did in the 70's and 80's. Do you have any regimen you use to keep your voice in shape?

3:40- 4:57   How did the recording process work with the latest album, The Book? Were you all in a room working it out the old school way, or did everyone send in their parts on files?

4:58-6:08    What would you consider your greatest moment on record, your best vocal performance?

"If your voice croaks a little bit, that's okay. I think it shows passion and soul."

6:09-9:10    Is there one particular song on The Book that holds a special place in your heart?

9:11-11:10   Guitar player discussion.

11:11-14:00     Ritchie has just called and asked you to front his newly reformed Rainbow. Assuming the paycheck is appropriate and all the stars align, is that something you would consider?

14:01-15:34    Other than this project and your other solo work, what was the most enjoyable band to work with?

15:35-17:25    Many bands, especially the veteran acts, are hesitant to make new music due to lack of sales. Nobody buys CD's anymore. Everyone is streaming music these days. Did you have any apprehension about making an album of new material?

17:26-20:08     Have you ever considered writing a book?

20:09-24:38     Any regrets? (Hear Graham talk about Yngwie Malmsteen and the chain of events that led to the guitarist’s departure from Alcatrazz)

"I wish that Yngwie didn't try to strangle me one night. 
That would've been nice if he hadn't done that."

24:39-25:52     What's at the top of Graham Bonnet's bucket list? What's the one thing you'd like to do before you leave us?

25:53-30:38     Will you tour the U.S. on this album?

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