ALCATRAZZ - Born Innocent
August 19, 2020, a month ago
Joe Stump takes the guitar position on the first new Alcatrazz disc in 34 years, joining mainstays Jimmy Waldo (keys), Gary Shea (bass) and vocalist Graham Bonnet. That said, there's also plenty of multi-national guest stringbenders onboard, including Chris Impellitteri on the introductory title track (alongside Riot bassist Don Van Stavern), perhaps the public swansong for recently deceased KISS/W.A.S.P. collaborator, Bob Kulick ("I Am The King") and Annihilator mainman Jeff Waters (adding just a solo to "Paper Flags"), amongst others.
The one-time Rainbow/MSG singer's solo effort: Meanwhile, Back In The Garage, turned up on my year-end Best of '18 list, so certainly interested in the first Alcatrazz studio effort since the lackluster Dangerous Games ('86). Like that platter, there are 13 songs here, which probably could have been pruned a bit, for a stronger, more cohesive presentation. But hey, with all the visitors/collaborations (and it HAS been almost 3 1/2 decades), we'll cut the overindulgence a bit of slack. Thankfully no re-invention, or updating of the classic sound, this is identifiable as Alcatrazz, as much for Waldo's prominent keys, as the odd crazy guitar and/or Bonnet's trademark voice.
The opening/title cut sees Impellitteri go off, easily the most intense number of the baker's dozen. Bonnet is in fine form. Said number is a representative example to play to those that might (somehow) be unfamiliar with the band's repertoire. Speedy "Finn McCool" inhabits similar (albeit more lyrical/commercially accessible) territory. Even though Bonnet was the initial calling card, always envisioned Alcatrazz as a guitarist showcase (undoubtedly, much to Waldo & Shea's chagrin), but with Malmsteen & Vai in the driver's seat, how could it have be otherwise. Now, Stump shows off his quick picking, sweeps and neo-classical arsenal, as well. Lyrics are often tongue-in-cheek, Graham pulling from his lengthy career, to impart seemingly autobiographical material. Case in point, 'The Wound Is Open" and mid-tempo "We Still Remember", which appears to be a sequel to the debut's "Island In the Sun", thematically. Hard driving "London 1666" (no, Bonnet wasn't there!) rides on Waldo's accents. "Paper Flags" is targeted at the UK Royals, comparing the Queen taking a crap to the birth of "one more royal brat." Ouch! Gritty, unaccompanied guitar tones greet "Body Beautiful", an askance look at tattoos and "Warth Lane" recounts a dismal episode from Bonnet's childhood. Now, how about some post-Covid live dates?