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ALCATRAZZ Parole Denied: Tokyo 2017

By Andrew Depedro, Ottawa Corespondent
Monday, December 31, 2018 @ 8:30 AM

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Parole Denied: Tokyo 2017

Frontiers Music Srl

For a band whose career was somewhat brief during their early incarnation in the 80’s, melodic rockers ALCATRAZZ could boast a vast lineup of legendary talent back in the day. Fronted by former RAINBOW/MICHAEL SCHENKER GROUP vocalist Graham Bonnet, the LA-based quintet were a force to be reckoned with when their debut album No Parole From Rock ‘N Roll was released in 1983, featuring the burgeoning talents of Swedish guitar legend Yngwie Malmsteen in their ranks along with keyboardist Jimmy Waldo and bassist Gary Shea from progressive 70’s rockers NEW ENGLAND. Yet while the talent within ALCATRAZZ was massive, so was the potential for creative differences to clash within the lineup, with Malmsteen being the first member to make his exit from the band following a public falling out with Bonnet in 1985; he in turn was replaced by another guitar legend, Steve Vai, for their second album Disturbing The Peace before he was called up to tour with David Lee Roth’s solo project. Eventually the band would call it quits for good two years later following the release of their third album Dangerous Games. By then, ALCATRAZZ had amassed a massive following in Japan thanks in part to hit songs such as “Hiroshima Mon Amour” and “Island In The Sun” and whatever other references to Japan they could write about at the time; sadly, it wasn’t enough to keep the band sustainable by their record label’s standards by the time they’d disbanded without even so much as a farewell tour. Plus, when your band has already seen off Yngwie Malmsteen and Steve Vai from your lineups within a year of each other, expecting the next replacement guitarist to measure up by those standards is frustratingly daunting.

Yet, though ALCATRAZZ were underappreciated at home while having riding out their best *ahem* breakout success in Japan, it was only fitting for the band to give their Japanese fans the proper farewell performance that they deserved on the 30th anniversary of their retirement with the 2 CD package Parole Denied: Tokyo 2017. Recorded during the band’s one-off reunion show in March 2017 while the GRAHAM BONNET BAND were promoting their own tour there, Bonnet, Waldo and Shea along with two of Bonnet’s own bandmates Mark Benquechea (drums) and Conrado Pesinato (guitars), declared ALCATRAZZ’s brief return to the rock.

Parole Denied is the sound of ALCATRAZZ at their zenith, from the minute-long part-acapella opener “Night Of The Shooting Star” to the closing Japan-friendly numbers “Hiroshima Mon Amour” and “Island In The Sun”. Judging by the loud audience reception on the first disc, this was clearly a sold-out show which Bonnet probably never thought he’d envision in his 50+ year career. And he makes sure the crowd knows of the band’s gratitude towards them as they work their way through other gems such as “Too Young To Die, Too Drunk To Live”, “God Blessed Video”, “Skyfire” and even “Jet To Jet”. Conrado’s guitar work on the songs of his predecessors is so well done, it was as if the loyal Japanese crowd never missed their absence at all.

The second CD is a collection of unreleased bonus tracks taken from the original sessions recorded in 1985. A few songs such as “No Imagination”, “Ohayo Tokyo” and “Blue Boar” eventually found their way onto Dangerous Games with Vai’s playing starting up the rhythm groove before they would be reworked by his replacement Danny Johnson. Elsewhere, songs such as “Emotion” and “Losing You Is Winning” exhibit some of Vai’s earliest and more versatile playing while capturing some of Bonnet’s own signature vocals.

Finally, just as God blessed video decades earlier, Frontiers Music blessed this compilation with a DVD of ALCATRAZZ rehearsing their setlist hours before their triumphant comeback performance later that night. The chemistry between the new lineup is fresh, dynamic and definitely worth two different performances of “Hiroshima Mon Amour”.

Parole Denied may be ALCATRAZZ’s proper and final hall pass to their loyal Japanese fan base following the rest of the world’s criminal overlooking of their work throughout their short career, but now with its release to the masses after years of solitary confinement, the band can finally savor their newfound freedom.

5.0 Out Of 5.0

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